Pa. ends program to help disabled women

    Pennsylvania is ending a program that has helped disabled mothers apply for federal assistance.

    Created when the Department of Public Welfare reached out to the Homeless Advocacy Project in 2009 to expand a successful model, the program expedited the process of getting Social Security disability payments. With the participation of lawyers and paralegals, applications that might usually take up to two years could take as little as a month.


    The Department contracted with HAP to work with disabled women whose welfare benefits were expiring. Many of the women, all mothers, have psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.

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    Michael Froelich of Community Legal Services said he’s upset that the cut comes as the welfare department also ends the general assistance funding that many relied on to get by until they were approved for Supplementary Security Income.

    “We can’t abandon them. We can’t rip the safety net from under them,” he said.

    Department spokeswoman Donna Morgan said recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — or TANF — may be eligible for another department program to apply for the federal benefits. This program works at the more standard year-plus timeline.

    Morgan said cut is part of the DPW’s effort to focus more on programs that encourage state aid recipients to work.

    “It’s the right thing to do for the Department of Public Welfare to help people who are unemployed get the education and training they need in order to get jobs, to get off of public assistance, and to support their families,” says Froelich. “But, there are some people who are permanently unable to work because they have some type of a physical or mental disability.”

    “We’re looking for other entities to contract with,” said Marsha Cohen, the Homeless Advocacy Project’s executive director. Cohen claims calls to her organization have increased since the general assistance program ended. She wants to find other funding to continue her work with mothers on TANF.

    New partners could include other state agencies or, she hopes, hospitals.

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