Personal hardships can cause your financial situation to spiral downward quickly. Even temporary setbacks can have lingering effects on your household finances. If you are having trouble affording food, medical care or simply can't make ends meet each month, you might be able to receive assistance from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. Residents can apply for Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, also known as cash assistance, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps, online through Pennsylvania COMPASS.
Compile the paperwork you need to complete your application. This includes photo ID for all adults, and Social Security cards and birth certificates for everyone. Gather at least one month of pay stubs or, if you are self-employed, your most recent tax return including Schedule C. If you have income from investments, pensions or other unearned income, include your most recent statement.
Go to the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare COMPASS website. Click "Apply for Benefits" and read the information about using COMPASS on the next four pages. On the last page, choose the appropriate bubble to indicate that you are applying for yourself, and create a password so you can retrieve your application if you can't finish it in one session.
Enter the personal information of all family members on the next two pages. This includes names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers.
Click the appropriate bubbles to choose the benefits you want to apply for on the next page.
Follow the prompts on the next five pages to report information about your monthly household income and expenses. You must report income from every source, including part-time jobs, child or spousal support payments, investments, annuities and Social Security benefits.
Review the information you provided on the summary page and click "Submit." The DPW will process the application within 30 days and, if you are approved, send you a Medicaid card as well as the electronic benefit transfer card for your cash assistance and SNAP benefits. If you are denied, the Pennsylvania DPW will provide the reason and give instructions on how to appeal the decision.
- You will find out during your interview if you are eligible for benefits and how long it will take for you to receive cash assistance, food stamps, and/or medical assistance.
- You may be eligible for expedited food stamps depending on how low your income is...you'll know this immediately at your interview and food stamps could be given to you that day...otherwise, you'll receive benefits in a week or so if you are eligible.
Lauren Treadwell studied finance at Western Governors University and is an associate of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. Treadwell provides content to a number of prominent organizations, including Wise Bread, FindLaw and Discover Financial. As a high school student, she offered financial literacy lessons to fellow students.