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45 Years of Impact Spotlight

Fighting Against Cuts to Critical Services and Benefits for People with Disabilities

Throughout its history, DRP has fought to ensure that people with disabilities have access to the services and supports they need to live the lives they choose. When state or local governments have attempted to reduce or eliminate the critical services the disability community depends on, DRP has acted to prevent cuts which would have had a devastating impact on those we serve.

For example, DRP, along with Community Legal Services and private counsel, filed a lawsuit in 2012 in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court to challenge the validity of Act 80, which had eliminated General Assistance (GA) cash benefits, changed eligibility rules for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and created the Human Services Block Grant program, which allowed counties to merge and shift funding for certain services. In 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that Act 80 violated the state constitution. As a result of this ruling, Pennsylvania re-opened applications for GA cash assistance, enabling low-income people with disabilities who did not qualify for TANF to once again receive needed financial assistance.

Earlier, in 1994, DRP, together with Community Legal Services and the Pennsylvania Health Law Project, challenged the Department of Public Welfare’s cuts to GA benefits and its failure to identify people with disabilities who remained eligible for benefits based on their disability. DRP, along with co-counsel, got a temporary restraining to stop the cuts, and subsequently reached a settlement agreement with the Department wherein it agreed to search for people with disabilities subject to the cuts, conduct outreach to them, and help them enroll in other benefits for which they might be eligible.

DRP, along with the Pennsylvania Health Law Project and Community Legal Services, filed Lind v. Snider, a class action lawsuit, in 1994 to challenge Pennsylvania’s implementation of a “welfare reform” law that eliminated broad categories of individuals eligible for Chronically Needy Status that entitled them to General Assistance benefits and medical benefits.  The law narrowed the categories of eligibility.  The state compounded the problem by sending out confusing termination notices that told 38,000 recipients their benefits would be terminated unless they appealed.  After we filed the lawsuit, the court granted our motion for a temporary restraining order to maintain the status quo pending a preliminary injunction hearing.  Before the hearing, the parties negotiated a settlement agreement.  As part of the settlement negotiations, the state searched for individuals whose benefits were going to be terminated to see if they were receiving disability services from other state or county agencies.  Individuals with disabilities identified in those searches were placed in a protected group and were able to maintain their benefits pending redeterminations.  The settlement also required Pennsylvania’s MH/ID offices and County Assistance Offices to assist people with disabilities to secure necessary documentation to maintain their benefits.

DRP filed Donnelly v. Browdie, a class action lawsuit, in 1997 against the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Aging and the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging after the latter implemented across-the-board reductions in home health services for approximately 1,700 elderly people with disabilities due to a shortfall in state funds.  The lawsuit alleged that the defendants’ actions violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by failing to allow class members the opportunity to challenge the decisions prior to their implementation.  After we filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction, Pennsylvania agreed to provide PCA with the funding necessary to enable the class members’ services to continue without reduction, thus affording full relief to class members.