Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare

Women’s health advocates in Pennsylvania are calling on the Corbett administration to extend a low-income women’s health insurance program set to expire at the end of the year.

The Women’s Health Caucus sent a letter Thursday to state Human Services Secretary Beverly Mackereth asking for a one-year extension of the SelectPlan for Women program, which provides coverage for gynecological exams, emergency contraception and breast and cervical cancer screenings for an estimated 90,000 women in the commonwealth.

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SNAP Loses Funding for the Poor

Last month, for the first time in its history, cuts were made across America to the food-stamp program known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

Pennsylvania's program has lost $183 million; for families and food banks, the impact can be felt most around the holidays.

Catherine Buhrig, Division Director in the Bureau of Policy for the PA Department of Public Welfare and Ken Regal, executive director of Just Harvest, educate people and help them apply for SNAP benefits. 

Buhrig sees firsthand the significance of these cuts to those families that live under the poverty line. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare has announced the 2013 grantees of Children’s Trust Fund grants. $1.5 million dollars will be divvied up to 13 organizations across the state.

“These are grants that are awarded to organizations to focus on strengthening families and building protective factors and resiliency within parents, caregivers and children in order to prevent child abuse and neglect,” said Theresa Campisi, family support program manager with DPW.

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Starting Monday November 4th, applications will be accepted for winter heating assistance through the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP.) An estimated 1.5 million Pennsylvania households are eligible for LIHEAP grants.

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Lost paperwork, benefit delays, being hung up on or treated rudely – those are just some of the problems faced by some residents of Allegheny County as they try to navigate through the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare for either food assistance or health benefits. On Wednesday, Just Harvest, an agency which helps connect people to services, held a meeting with DPW Secretary Beverly Mackareth and concerned residents who outlined problems they’ve had and some of what they’d like to see going forward.

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Starting November 1, families receiving benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also referred to as food stamps, will see the amount of assistance drop. That’s because a boost in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the federal stimulus, expires.

“We have 1.8 million individuals who receive the SNAP benefit in Pennsylvania,” said Carey Miller, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. “We would expect that there would be about a 5 percent reduction to those individual SNAP benefits.”

Pennsylvanians who received a Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) crisis grant last year might warm up at the news that they are receiving an additional $200.

“It turns out at the end of the LIHEAP season last year, we had enough money that we felt the need to kind of return it to those people who had the greatest need,” said Anne Bale, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Welfare.

Bale said the extra $200 will be sent directly to the crisis-clients’ utility companies.

Legislation to change the name of the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services passed the House before it adjourned for the summer but the Senate left Harrisburg without taking any action on the revised bill.  The Senate is scheduled to reconvene in September. 

An annual report from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare showed a record-breaking number of calls of suspected child abuse or neglect, but this might not be all bad news.

Department spokeswoman Anne Bale said officials think the increase in calls might not be because there are more cases of actual abuse happening.