Eligible Pennsylvanians may qualify for benefit programs that can help to cover the costs of food, utilities, housing, and more throughout the winter season. The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services oversees many of these programs in the state. With the winter months approaching, it is essential that older adults in our communities have access to nutritious food, reliable heat, and safe housing.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides funds to income-eligible individuals and families to be used on groceries, helping individuals to obtain more nutritious diets and increase their food-purchasing power at grocery stores and supermarkets. Benefits are provided monthly through an Electronic Benefit Transfer card that can be used for food purchases. Pennsylvanians can apply for SNAP online through the PA Department of Human Services’ COMPASS application or in person at their local County Assistance Office. The Coalition Against Hunger operates a SNAP Hotline (215-430-0556) to help complete SNAP applications over the phone.
The Senior Food Box Program works to improve the health of low-income older adults by supplementing their diets with nutritious foods. The boxes include non-perishable foods items such as non-fat dry and shelf-stable fluid milk, juice, oats, ready-to-eat cereal, rice, pasta, dry beans, peanut butter, canned meat, poultry, or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables. In Pennsylvania, eligible participants include low-income individuals who are at least 60 years old and whose household income is at or below 130 percent of the U.S. poverty level. Older adults interested in this program can contact the Bureau of Food Assistance at 800-468-2433 or RA-Fooddist@pa.gov.
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps individuals and families to pay their heating bills in the form of a cash grant. The cash grant is a one-time payment sent directly to the utility company/fuel provider. These grants range from $500 to $1,500 based on household size, income, and fuel type. Pennsylvanians can apply online or call the LIHEAP Helpline at 1-866-857-7095 to request a paper application.
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) can provide financial support to renters of residential properties who are at risk of eviction or utility shutoffs due to hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Landlords can apply for assistance on behalf of tenants and receive rental assistance directly if the tenant is eligible. Some counties have their own processes for residents to apply for ERAP funds. The Department of Human Services has a County Application Finder so that Pennsylvanians can apply directly to their county office. Individuals in Philadelphia can apply through phlrentassist.org or by calling 311.