Pennsylvania government assistance programs brace for possible surge this summer

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As Pennsylvania faces an unprecedented number of unemployed workers, government assistance programs like SNAP and Medicaid have just slightly increased. But as the extra federal unemployment cash ends in about two months, the state is planning for a possible spike in numbers.

Medicaid slightly increased by 2.2% since the beginning of the pandemic.

A few thousand more kids were added to Pennsylvania's Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, and the state's food stamp program, SNAP, jumped 7%. There have also been moratoriums on evictions and forclosures.

Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said those measures have been staving off a possible surge, but they're bracing for one nonetheless, especially if another stimulus payment doesn't go out.

"We may see a more significant uptick once people are no longer receiving that extra $600, so that is one of the things we are planning for," she said.

To qualify for a program like SNAP, the state factors in monthly income, household size and if a senior or someone in the home has a disability.

The LIHEAP program, which helps fuel homes, has also loosened eligibility qualifications.

Though she realizes there is a societal stigma attached to government assistance programs, Miller said this is an unprecedented time and people need the help.

"I think this pandemic is showing a lot of us that this can happen to anybody, and right now this is happening to a lot of people who never anticipated they would need our agency services," she said. "There may be people who have not used DHS' programs before, and so that's why we want them to know we are here and we may have assistance that could be helpful to them."