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Overview of Welfare Programs in Philadelphia

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Overview of Welfare Programs in Philadelphia

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What government programs provide cash assistance to poor people?

The Department of Public Welfare’s local offices (DPW) — also called County Assistance Offices — runs a programs that provide cash to poor people. The program is called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). It provides cash to families with children and to pregnant women.

DPW used to provide another form of cash called General Assistance (GA). This program ended in August 2012. However, individuals can still receive Medical Assistance through this program. Certain categories of people can still receive Medical Assistance through this program, including: (1) people whom a doctor says are disabled and can’t work; (2) people caring for a child or a disabled adult who has no other caretaker; (3) children living with non-relatives; (4) certain people in drug and alcohol treatment programs (limited to 9 months per lifetime); (5) survivors of domestic violence (limited to 9 months per lifetime); and (6) some other people.

The Social Security Administration provides cash to people with long-term physical or mental disabilities, to those 65 and older, and the blind. The SSI program is for low-income people and the SSDI program is for people with significant work histories. SSI and SSDI provide more money than TANF or GA, but proving disability for these programs is more difficult and the application process takes longer.

Are there programs that pay for food and medical expenses?

Most low-income people are eligible for Food Stamps, which are government credits that can be used like cash to buy food at most grocery stores.

Anyone who receives TANF or SSI automatically receives Medical Assistance (MA), which pays for all necessary medical expenses. People who receive SSDI become eligible for Medicare after two years. SSDI recipients with low incomes may be able to receive Medical Assistance in addition to Medicare.

There are also programs that provide health insurance for certain low-income people who do not receive cash assistance. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and the disabled may be eligible for health insurance even if their incomes are too high for them to receive cash benefits.

How does the government decide who is eligible for these programs?

In general, the government looks at two things when deciding whether a person or family is eligible for low-income programs. First, it looks at how much income—and sometimes the savings—a person or family has. Second, it looks at how many people are in the household and how those people are related to each other. The more people there are in a household, the more income a family can have and still be eligible. For Food Stamps, they also look at how much the household pays for housing and utilities.

Are these programs open to immigrants?

In Pennsylvania, most legal immigrants remain eligible for most welfare programs. There are some exceptions, however. For example, some non-citizens are only eligible for Food Stamps after they have been in the U.S. for five years. And some immigrants who entered the United States after August 1996 are not eligible for SSI during their first five years in the country.




Food Stamps

Medical Assistance



Who is eligible?

Low-income families with children (including people caring for their relatives’ children) and pregnant women

Almost all low-income citizens. Many immigrants are not eligible.

Low-income children, elderly, disabled individuals, and parents

Low-income people with disabilities, blind, or age 65+. Immigrants may not be eligible during their first 5 years in the United States.

People with long-term disabilities, blind, or 65+ and with significant work histories

What does it provide?


One person: $205/month

Two people:


Three people:


Credits to use at grocery stores. Amount depends on income, household size, and housing and utilities costs.

No cash.


One person: $710/month

Married couple:




The amount depends on the recipient’s work history

Medical coverage

Yes: Medical Assistance



Yes: Medical Assistance

Yes, but only after 2 years: Medicare

(SSDI may separately qualify for Medical Assistance)

Where to apply

Local welfare office. To find the nearest office, call (215) 560-7226

Local welfare office. To find the nearest office, call (215) 560-7226

Local welfare office. To find the nearest office, call (215) 560-7226

Local Social Security Administration office, or call (800) 772-1213.

Local Social Security Administration office, or call (800) 772-1213.

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