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Human Services shares latest public-assistance enrollment data, urges Congressional delegation to codify flexibility for states, support for food assistance programs

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Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller yesterday 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.

While program enrollments have increased since the first cases of COVID-19 were identified in Pennsylvania in March, there has been an increase, but an overwhelming surge of applications to date. However, DHS is still anticipating a prolonged need, and urged Pennsylvania’s Congressional Delegation to consider what states need to properly respond to this need in their next relief package.

Enrollment statewide for Medicaid has increased by more than 178,000 people since February, for a total enrollment of more than 3 million people in July – a 6.3% 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 and 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 time, so people needing health coverage can apply for these programs at any time. There are income limits for Medicaid, but all children qualify for coverage through CHIP.

Enrollment for SNAP statewide has increased by about 101,500 people since February, for a total enrollment of about 1.9 million in July – a 5.8% increase.

SNAP currently helps more than 1.9 million Pennsylvanians, including children, people with disabilities, older adults, and working adults expand purchasing power to ensure their household has enough food to avoid going hungry.

Applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid can be submitted online at www.compass.state.pa.us. Applications are processed within six days on average for SNAP and 11 days on average for Medicaid. Once a benefit is approved, it can be immediately accessed. Pennsylvanians who need immediate help feeding themselves or their family can also find more information about food assistance resources for people around Pennsylvania impacted by COVID-19 and the accompanying economic insecurity here.

Miller also detailed a letter recently sent by DHS to Pennsylvania’s Congressional Delegation. The letter details the stabilizing impact of direct assistance provided from the federal government to families in Pennsylvania and around the country. Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy projects in a brief released earlier this summer that the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) will rise just .2% this year to 12.7% because of economic impact payments and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). Had broadly-targeted aid not been included in early COVID-19 relief efforts, the brief estimates that the SPM could have reached 16.3% due to historic unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression.

“As members of the United States Congress, each of you has the power to continue relief that will protect hard-working Pennsylvanians affected by this time of crisis. We must be sure that individuals and families in Pennsylvania and around the country do not default on mortgage, auto, and student loan payments; face eviction from rental properties; rely on credit card debt and predatory loans to cover costs, or go without essential needs like food, health care, utilities, or shelter just to make ends meet,” wrote Miller. “We must avoid a prolonged economic downturn and a crisis like the Great Depression and 2008 financial crisis. Those crises upended peoples’ lives and livelihoods and caused grave, long-term damage to the people we all serve. We can prevent this, and each of you can be a part of protecting your constituents from similar turmoil.”

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