Reminds Pennsylvanians of Home Energy Assistance Available Through LIHEAP
Harrisburg, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today detailed January 2021 public assistance enrollment numbers and reminded Pennsylvanians that safety-net programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid are available to individuals and families who are struggling to afford food or access health care.
“Our public assistance network is designed to be a lifeline that makes sure people can go to the doctor, have enough to eat, or pay their utilities as other bills and needs arise, even in our most difficult times,” said Secretary Miller. “No one should feel like they have to endure the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty that many have experienced in the last year alone. Hope is ahead, but there is still great need in our communities. If you or someone you know could use a hand, please let us try to help so we can emerge from this crisis together.”
Enrollment statewide for Medicaid has increased by 366,068 people since February 2020, for a total enrollment of 3,197,631 people in January 2021 – a nearly 13 percent increase.
Pennsylvanians who have lost health coverage or are currently uninsured and need coverage for themselves or their children may qualify for coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Medicaid and CHIP provide coverage for routine and emergency health services, tests and screenings, and prescriptions, and COVID-19 testing and treatment are covered by both Medicaid and CHIP. Medicaid and CHIP enroll individuals throughout the year and do not have a limited or special enrollment period, so people needing health coverage can apply for these programs at any time. There are income limits for Medicaid, but all children qualify for comprehensive health, vision, and dental coverage through CHIP regardless of their parents’ income.
Enrollment for SNAP statewide has increased by 82,270 people since February 2020, for a total enrollment of about 1,819,729 in January 2021 – a 4.7 percent increase.
SNAP helps more than 1.8 million Pennsylvanians purchase fresh food and groceries, helping families with limited or strained resources be able to keep food on the table while meeting other bills and needs. Inadequate food and chronic nutrient deficiencies have profound effects on a person’s life and health, including increased risks for chronic diseases, higher chances of hospitalization, poorer overall health, and increased health care costs. As the nation continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic, access to essential needs like food is more important than ever to help keep vulnerable populations healthy and mitigate co-occurring health risks.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) is no longer being counted as income for people applying for SNAP eligibility. This opens SNAP as a potential option to help more people who have lost income or employment due to the pandemic.
Secretary Miller also reminded Pennsylvanians that assistance with home energy bills is still available through LIHEAP. LIHEAP helps people who qualify pay their home heating bills so they do not have to choose between staying warm and safe during the winter months and facing unaffordable home energy bills. Assistance is available for renters and homeowners, and LIHEAP can help both with normal bills and emergency situations like broken heating equipment that needs to be fixed or replaced, lack of fuel, or risk of termination without the current utility shut-off moratorium.
Pennsylvanians who are having trouble paying utility bills or have an emergency situation are strongly encouraged to see if LIHEAP can help to avoid accruing unpaid bills that may be hard to pay when the moratorium on utility shutoffs ends. LIHEAP applications opened on November 2, 2020, and end April 9, 2021.
Applications for SNAP, Medicaid, LIHEAP, and other public assistance programs that provide cash assistance can be submitted online at www.compass.state.pa.us. For those who prefer to submit a paper application, options are available. Although our County Assistance Offices (CAO) remain closed, paper applications are available for pick-up. Applications can also be printed from the website, or requested by phone at 1-800-692-7462 and mailed to their local CAO or placed in a CAO’s secure drop box, if available. You do not need to know your own eligibility in order to apply. While CAOs remain closed, work processing applications, determining eligibility, and issuing benefits continues. Clients should use COMPASS or the MyCOMPASS PA mobile app to submit necessary updates to their case files while CAOs are closed to the public.
For more information about food assistance resources for people around Pennsylvania impacted by COVID-19 and the accompanying economic insecurity, visit the Department of Agriculture’s food security guide.
For more information on public assistance programs, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.
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