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Homeowners Assistance and Housing Programs
Pennsylvania – Making Home Affordable options
Making Home Affordable is a federal program designed to cover different homeowners’ hardships and financial situations. Under the program there are various options that can help Pennsylvania homeowners in hardship stay in their homes. Depending on the situation Pennsylvania homeowners in hardship can apply to lower their monthly payments, lower the interest rate on their home loan or even get principal reduction in some cases.
There are foreclosure alternatives and temporarily help for unemployed homeowners as well.
Here are some of the most used options under Making Home Affordable Program:
- Lower your monthly mortgage payments with Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP)
- Lower your interest rate with Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP)
- Check eligibility for principal reduction with Principal Reduction Alternative SM (PRA)
- Get help if currently unemployed with Home Affordable Unemployment Program (UP)
- Reduce your 2nd mortgage monthly payments with Second Lien Modification Program (2MP)
- Explore your foreclosure alternatives with Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives Program (HAFA)
- FHA Home Affordable Modification Program (FHA-HAMP)
HUD (US Department of Housing and Urban Development) approved housing counselor can be reached at: 888-995-4673 (Hearing impaired: 877-304-9709 TTY) to help you understand your options, prepare your application, and work with your mortgage company.
Food Assistance Programs, Services, and Organizations in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or the Food Stamps Program as it is known by the public, is a federal program that provides grants to the States for purpose of reducing the hunger and malnutrition in all eligible households across the nation. SNAP helps provide healthy food to qualifying low-income families with children, elderly or disabled in each State of the USA, including Pennsylvania. SNAP also provides education about nutrition to help recipients choose foods that enhance their health and well being.
It is important to know that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a federal entitlement program funded by U.S. Government grants. Any U.S. Citizen, even some legal alien residents, will get free food assistance as long as they meet the SNAP eligibility guidelines. In other words, there is enough Supplemental Nutrition Assistance for every American that qualifies. Learn more about SNAP.
In Pennsylvania the SNAP is administered by the Department of Human Services (DHS). The SNAP eligibility determination and benefits issuance are provided by the DHS and County Assistance offices across the state. The Federal Government oversees the State operation and pays 100% of Pennsylvania SNAP Benefits with federal grants appropriated for SNAP. The SNAP federal grants also pay a share of the Pennsylvania SNAP administrative cost.
The main purpose of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is to help end hunger and improve nutrition and health of low income households. The SNAP provides monthly benefits to low-income Pennsylvania households that help them buy the food needed for a nutritionally adequate diet. According to the DHS, “These benefits are used to buy food and help eligible low-income households in Pennsylvania obtain more nutritious diets by increasing their food purchasing power at grocery stores and supermarkets.”
Who is Eligible for SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps) in Pennsylvania?
The eligibility rules and benefit amounts in Pennsylvania, like in other States, are based on limited income, limited liquid resources, household size, and other requirements. Most eligibility rules are determined by regulations issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service.
The federal law allows States some flexibility when implementing SNAP on a State level. State agencies can adapt some of the SNAP food assistance program rules in order to meet the needs of eligible, low‐income local population.
Pennsylvania Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is designed for individuals and families with limited income resources, who compose a household, and purchase and prepare their meals together for home consumption.
For the purpose of the SNAP, certain people must be included in one household account even if they purchase and prepare meals separately. Husbands and wives of any household member, their children under age 22 when living together, plus children younger than 18 who are dependents of an adult household member are all considered as a part of one household formation.
In Pennsylvania anyone with limited income and resources may apply for food stamps but, in general, to qualify for Pennsylvania SNAP Benefits you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Pennsylvania Resident – must be a U.S. Citizen or a legal resident with SNAP eligible non-citizen status;
- Work Requirement – unless exempted, each able-bodied household member who is 16 to 60 year old must be registered to work, and accept a suitable employment offer;
- Resources Limit – Households with gross incomes over 160% of the federal poverty line (FPL) are not categorically eligible for SNAP benefits if their liquid resources exceed $5,500, (200% of FPL and more than $9,000 of liquid resources are the numbers for households that have elderly or disabled member);
- Income Limits – Income limits eligibility depends on the household size and composition and are based on the current federal poverty levels. Gross income includes wages, salaries, commissions, dividends, child support, self-employment income, unemployment compensation, social security benefits and others. Household net income is computed by deducting certain allowed expenses from gross income. The resulting numbers must fall below the net income dollar amounts listed in the table below for your household to get food assistance benefits. This dollar amount depends on the number of people in your household.
See the table with Pennsylvania SNAP Benefits income limits per household size below.
[table id=69 /]
Source: USDA, SNAP Income Eligibility Standards
Most Pennsylvania residents are automatically or so called categorically eligible for SNAP Benefits if they already participate in other means tested assistance programs. Getting any benefits or services (e.g. getting pamphlet or brochure) from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) federal block grant program or receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) can make the applicant for SNAP categorically eligible, thus bypassing the federal guidelines for standard limits on income and assets.
Quick Eligibility Check
Use this Pre-Screening Eligibility Tool to find out if you may be eligible to get Pennsylvania SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps).
The screening allows interested in getting Pennsylvania food stamps to provide some basic information and find out if they are potentially eligible for benefits.
If you use this Pre-Screening Tool you will be notified immediately on the screen if you qualify after completing the questionnaire. This is a pre-screening information, and you still have to make an application at your local Pennsylvania DHS office.
Even if you are unsure whether you would qualify you still may be eligible for SNAP Benefits and you should still apply.
The Department of Human Services is the agency in Pennsylvania that can make final determination regarding your SNAP application in this State and grant you benefits.
What are the Dollar Amounts of Pennsylvania SNAP Benefits?
If the applicant is approved, the Pennsylvania SNAP Benefit amounts depend on the household size and the amount of the their net income. USDA has maximum food stamp benefit limits per month per household size. Check below what are the maximum food stamp assistance monetary amounts. The food assistance dollar amounts are called allotments.
[table id=29 /]
Source: USDA, SNAP Maximum Allotments
How to Apply for SNAP Benefits (Food Stamps) in Pennsylvania?
To apply for SNAP benefits in Pennsylvania download and print the “Pennsylvania Application for Benefits” form offered by Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.
In addition to SNAP food assistance, the same application form can be used to apply for SelectPlan for Women, Health care coverage, and Cash assistance.
More than one assistance program in an application is common practice by a lot of the States, since most of the people in need of food stamps are likely to be in need of cash and other assistance and services.
Applicants for SNAP in State of Pennsylvania can file an application in person, through an authorized representative, by fax, by mail, or online. The SNAP application may be submitted to any Pennsylvania local County Assistance Office (CAO).
If you are to file a paper form – just fill out all required information on the Application for Benefits and mail or turn it in any local County Assistance Office.
If you do not have all the information that is needed to complete the SNAP application, provide as much as you can – but you must include your name, address, social security number, and your signature for the DHS office to accept it. All required information and its verification can be provided later at the interview or upon request.
If you are eligible, your SNAP Benefits will start from the date the DHS receives your application. However, if you provide more information, it will help DHS determine your eligibility more quickly.
The application process includes an SNAP eligibility interview and information verification. After you have submitted your application, the DHS office will contact you to set up an interview and verify the information on your application. If you are elderly, disabled individual, or unable to go to the office due to a hardship, call the DHS to request your SNAP eligibility interview conducted over the phone.
At the interview, you will meet with a DHS caseworker who will go over the information on your application and verify the required supporting documentation and proofs. You will also receive information from the worker or other staff about job requirements/opportunities and your responsibilities.
Within 30 days of the interview, if eligible, you will receive a notice stating how much food assistance benefit and for how long your household is eligible for before a review of the case is due, along with reporting requirements.
The SNAP benefit amount depends on the household size and its net income – that is all countable income minus all allowable deductions.
If Pennsylvania DHS finds you eligible for SNAP benefits, you will be entitled to receive food stamps from the date your signed application was received.
Pennsylvania SNAP applicants also have the option to apply for SNAP benefits online using the Pennsylvania COMPASS – an online application system that enables users to apply and manage their benefits online.
Pennsylvania SNAP Benefits Verification of Information, Rules, Approval
The DHS Office has to interview you and verify provided information before determining if the household is eligible for Food Stamp Benefits.
Here are some examples of information and documentary evidence that you may be required to provide at the SNAP eligibility interview:
- Your identification;
- Proof of your income
- Money paid to you for rent
- Sick benefits
- Money paid to you for room or board
- Money earned from baby sitting
- Money paid to you for loans
- Money for training
- Worker’s compensation
- Guardian fees
- Social Security
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Union pay
- Veteran Benefits
- IRA/401k/profit sharing
- Trust fund
- Personal account or savings account
- U.S. Savings Bonds
- Boat, snowmobile, camper
- Checking account
- Christmas or vacation club
- Motorcycle, ATV
- Certificate of deposit
- Stocks and bonds
- Rent or mortgage
- Condominium fees
- Homeowners’s property insurance
- Property taxes
- Telephone bill
- Utility bills
- Medical expenses
- Other expenses
- Social Security numbers for everyone in your household who wants benefits; and
- Proof of your legal immigration status (for persons who are not U.S. citizens) for all in the household who want benefits.
This is not a complete list and depending on case the DHS caseworker may request additional types of proof and application supporting documents.
Applicants for SNAP benefits in Pennsylvania should get a response within 30 days from the date they submitted their application to the DHS office. When start getting food stamps benefits, households must report any changes of their situation in a set period of time in order to assure their participation in the Pennsylvania Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Under the simplified reporting option, households are required to report changes in income between certification and scheduled reporting periods.
SNAP regulations require all non‐exempt household members to comply with work requirements. Work requirements include registering for work, not voluntarily quitting a job, and accepting a suitable employment offer. As per federal SNAP guidelines, individuals who fail to comply with SNAP work requirements without good cause are ineligible for program benefits and disqualified from SNAP for certain periods of time, depending on how many prior instances of non‐compliance there have been.
The law limits the SNAP benefits to 3 months in a 3-year period for all able-bodied adults between the ages of 18-49 without dependents, who are not working or participating in a work program for at least 20 hours each week.
As part of the SNAP federal grant assistance requirements, each State has to offer employment and training (E&T) program to its SNAP benefits recipients. Participants in such programs, where available, can get adult education, vocational training, job skills training for specific jobs, and work experience via short-term unpaid work assignments.
The main goal of the work requirement is to help the food stamp recipients get jobs, reduce or eliminate their dependency on the government benefits.
In Pennsylvania the DHS is responsible for assisting and directing persons in E&T activities which enable them to achieve or maintain economic self support. The State runs a job search training component that prepares participants for job search by teaching interview techniques and resume writing. Additional activities include workshops and seminars. These services are offered through Pennsylvania’s local County Assistance Offices or its E&T partner agencies.
Approved! When and How Do I Get the Food Stamp Benefits?
Pennsylvania SNAP provides the food assistance benefits via the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system. The monetary benefits of Pennsylvania SNAP are transferred to the accounts of qualified beneficiaries and are accessible through Pennsylvania Access Card.
Benefits are made available over the first 10 business days of every month, based on the last digit of the client’s case number:
Case numbers ending in: 1 = benefits are issued on the 1st
Case numbers ending in: 2 = benefits are issued on the 2nd
Case numbers ending in: 3 = benefits are issued on the 3rd
Case numbers ending in: 4 = benefits are issued on the 4th
Case numbers ending in 5 = benefits are issued on the 5th
Case numbers ending in: 6 = benefits are issued on the 6th
Case numbers ending in: 7 = benefits are issued on the 7th
Case numbers ending in: 8 = benefits are issued on the 8th
Case numbers ending in: 9 = benefits are issued on the 9th
Case numbers ending in: 0 = benefits are issued on the 10th
*Cash benefits are made available to each recipient twice during every
If you have any question regarding your EBT Account or EBT Card call Pennsylvania EBT Customer Service: 1-888-328-7366
How and Where to Use the Food Stamp Benefits?
When approved, Pennsylvania SNAP beneficiaries will get Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards – The Pennsylvania Access Card. The monetary benefits of the Pennsylvania SNAP are transferred into the accounts of qualified beneficiaries and are accessible through Pennsylvania EBT Access Card. Households and individuals can use their EBT cards and spend the benefits like cash at any Pennsylvania grocery stores and farmers’ markets that are authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to accept SNAP (food stamp) benefits.
Check this list of Pennsylvania SNAP participating stores that are authorized to take EBT cards for purchasing of SNAP eligible food items. Eligible food items are any food to be eaten at home by people, including baby food, non-alcoholic beverages, and seasonings. Seeds and plants to grow food for your own family’s consumption are also allowed to be purchased with food stamp benefits. You cannot buy non-grocery items with food stamp benefits, such as cleaning products, pet food, paper products, alcohol, or tobacco.
I Need Food Assistance Now. It is an Emergency!
Some households may get Expedited Services – that is getting Food Assistance Benefits within 7 calendar days if your household has less than $150 in monthly gross income and liquid resources (cash, checking or savings accounts) of $100 or less; or your rent/mortgage and utilities are more than your household’s combined monthly income and liquid resources; or a member of your household is a migrant or seasonal farm worker. In order to get expedite assistance, if you qualify, provide all required information and proof as soon as possible. Call 1-800-692-7462 for more information on Pennsylvania Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.