Pennsylvania Supreme Court Declares Act 80 Unconstitutional and Re-opens Applications for General Cash Assistance
Disability Rights Pennsylvania, together with Community Legal Services and private counsel, filed a lawsuit in 2012 in Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court to challenge the validity of Act 80, which eliminated General Assistance (GA) cash benefits, changed eligibility rules for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and created the Human Services Block Grant program allowing counties to merge and shift funding for certain services. Filed on behalf of individual GA beneficiaries, the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers Association, the Mental Health Association in Southeastern Pennsylvania, as well as two provider organizations and others, the lawsuit alleged primarily that Act 80 violated the Pennsylvania Constitution’s provisions governing the legislative process.
On July 18, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, holding that Act 80 was unconstitutional. Specifically, the Court held that the Legislature violated Article III, Section 4 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which requires bills to have three readings in both chambers of the Legislature. Act 80 did not have the requisite three readings because the House considered the bill on only a single day. While the House had considered a prior version of the bill that became Act 80 over a year previously, that prior version included only a single provision while the later version of the bill did not include that provision at all and, instead, included, multiple, disparate provisions not germane to the prior version.
As a result of this decision, Pennsylvania re-opened applications for General Assistance cash assistance on August 13, 2018. Community Legal Services has posted information on eligibility and applications, https://clsphila.org/GA. In brief, you may be eligible for General Assistance if you: (1) have a temporary or permanent disability; (2) are a minor child not living with a relative; (3) are caring for an unrelated child under age 13 or caring for someone who is ill or has a disability; (4) are a victim of domestic violence; or (5) are in a substance abuse treatment program that prevents you from working. The maximum cash assistance for people with no other income is $205/month for 1 person or $316/month for two people. You can apply for General Assistance by going to your County Assistance Office or online at www.compass.state.pa.us.