Assistance Programs in Pennsylvania – Get Help with Rent, Health, Bills and More

Pennsylvania unemployment benefits are set by the legislature each year and at $561 per week now, many people find it difficult to cover basic necessities, especially if it takes more than a couple weeks to find a new job.

Fortunately, there are public and private organizations and nonprofit agencies that can help if you are in a difficult financial spot. Whether you need help with your mortgage, utilities, food, health care or even childcare and other supplies, you will usually be able to find an organization near you to give you a helping hand.

Help with Healthcare and Medical Expenses in PA

Pennsylvania Medical Assistance (Medicaid)

Medical Assistance, or MA, in Pennsylvania is administered by the state Department of Human Services. There are several different plans, including family MA and MA for pregnant women, and a children’s health plan.

For family MA, you must meet the following income requirements:

Household Size* Maximum Income Level (Per Year)
1 $15,800
2 $21,307
3 $26,813
4 $32,319
5 $37,825
6 $43,331
7 $48,851
8 $54,384

Pregnant women and women with infants under 12 months old must meet the following income guidelines:

Household Size
Monthly Pregnant Women and Infants Under Age One (215% FPIG)
Monthly
Children Age One to Age Five (157% FPIG)
Monthly
Children Ages Six to Under Age 19 (133% FPIG)
1
$2,161
$1,578
$1,337
2
$2,910
$ 2,125
$1,800
3
$3,659
$2,672
$2,264
4
$4,408
$3,219
$2,727
5
$5,157
$3,766
$3,190
6
$5,906
$4,313
$3,654
7
$6,655
$4,860
$4,117
8
$7,404
$5,407
$4,580
Each Additional Person
+$749
+$547
+$464

Some MA programs may also have an asset-limit requirement, which limits the amount of cash and other assets you have in order to qualify.

You must also be a resident of the state and a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Everyone who applies for MA coverage must also have a valid Social Security number.

You can use this online screening tool to see if you qualify before you apply. You will also find out if you are eligible for any other Pennsylvania state benefits once you complete the screening questionnaire.

Apply online at the COMPASS website or download a paper application and return it to your local  Department of Human Services office. You can apply by telephone for Health Care Coverage by calling the Consumer Service Center for Health Care Coverage at 1-866-550-4355.

Once your application is accepted, you will be contacted to schedule a screening interview. Your caseworker will tell you what documents you need to bring to verify the information on your application.

Even if you do not qualify for Pennsylvania MA, contact your local DHS office and ask about other health care programs that may be available to you.

Help with Prescription Drugs in Pennsylvania

The Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA) is an organization that matches individuals without health insurance or prescription drug coverage with programs in their area that provide free or low cost prescription medications.

To find out if you’re eligible, use the online screening tool. Keep in mind that even if you aren’t eligible for help with one medication you currently take, there may be programs available for others, so be sure to enter any new prescription into the screening tool to see what’s available.

The Pennsylvania Drug Card is a free prescription discount program available to anyone in the state regardless of income or insurance status. Visit the website to apply online.

In addition, many of the free and low cost health and dental clinics detailed in the section below offer free or deeply discounted prescription medications to their patients. If you need help paying for prescription drugs, be sure to ask your provider if there is any medication assistance available.

Free and Low-Cost Health and Dental Clinics in PA

If you make too much money to qualify for the Pennsylvania Medicaid program and no longer have health insurance through your employer, you can still get health care, dental care, and prescription drugs for free or on a sliding-scale basis at one of the many nonprofit facilities and community health clinics throughout the state.

Most clinics serve individuals regardless of their ability to pay or immigration status. In some cases, you may have to bring documentation proving your identity, income, and residence in order to receive care. It’s a good idea to call before you show up to find out what’s required, even if the clinic accepts walk-in patients. You may be asked to pay a co-pay or fee based on your income for your care.

Here are some places to get care in the largest counties and cities in Pennsylvania.

ALLEGHENY COUNTY – PITTSBURGH

Birmingham Free Clinic

The clinic is a partnership between the University of Pittsburgh Department of Medicine, the Program for Health Care for Underserved Populations, and the Salvation Army. Services include primary and acute care, chronic disease management, physical exams, medication access and management, tuberculosis testing, influenza vaccines, health education, and on-site specialty consult services for cardiology, dermatology, vision, endocrinology, and pulmonary problems

44 South 9th Street

Pittsburgh, PA 15203 (on the Pittsburgh South Side, near the Salvation Army Thrift Store)

Please call 412-692-4706 for an appointment or more information.

Catholic Charities Diocese of Pittsburgh Free Health Care Center

The center provides free primary and specialty health and dental care regardless of insurance status to qualified residents of the Pittsburgh area. You must meet the following income guidelines to qualify:

Size of Family 250%

Annual Income

250%

Weekly Income

1 $29,700 $571
2 $40,050 $770
3 $50,400 $$969
4 $60,750 $1,168
5 $71,700 $1,367
6 $81,450 $1,566
7 $91,825 $1,766
8 $102,225 $1,966

You must download and complete an application and return it to the clinic to see if you are eligible before you can schedule an appointment.

Catholic Charities Free Health Care Center

Eligibility Office

212 Ninth Street, 2nd Floor

Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Monday through Friday

9:00 am to 4:00 pm

Note: This is not a walk-in clinic. To receive services, you must schedule an appointment.

Tel: 412-456-6910

Email: info.freecarepgh@ccpgh.org

BUCKS COUNTY – DOYLESTOWN

Ann Silverman Community Health Clinic

The clinic provides free primary health care and dental services to adults and children in Bucks County. You must be uninsured in order to qualify and meet income guidelines (250% of federal poverty limits, or about $40,000 per year for a family of two.

You must complete an eligibility application and attend an interview before you can be accepted as a patient.

595 West State Street

Doylestown, PA

Call 215-345-2260 and press 3 for information, eligibility screening, or to make an appointment.

CHESTER COUNTY – WEST CHESTER

Community Volunteers in Medicine

CVIM provides free primary medical care and dental care, as well as prescription drugs, to qualified residents of Chester County. In order to qualify for free care, you must be uninsured and meet income guidelines (300% of federal poverty limits):

Gross Income Earned Each Year Must be at or Below:

Number in Family:   300%
1 $36,180
2 $48,720
3 $61,260
4 $73,800
5 $86,340
6 $98,880
7 $111,420
8 $123,960
9 $136,500

NOTE:  Website provides general eligibility guidelines.

Please call to discuss specific details concerning your household.

300B Lawrence Drive,

West Chester, PA, 19380

Call 610-836-5990

LACKAWANNA COUNTY – SCRANTON

Edward R. Leahy Jr. Center Clinic for the Uninsured

This is a free clinic operated by the University of Scranton. It provides non-emergency health care for adults and children in the Scranton area. They also provide physical therapy and a vision center. The center is staffed by college faculty and students, as well as community volunteers.

230 Kressler Court

Scranton, PA 18503

Call 570-941-6112 for more information or to make an appointment. The clinic does not accept walk-ins. The clinic is open on Thursdays from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Scranton Primary Health Care Center

This clinic provides low-cost health care and dental services to the unemployed and uninsured or underinsured in Scranton. Services offered include:

Internal Medicine

  • Routine Health Physicals
  • Adult Immunizations
  • Management of Chronic Disease States to include: Hypertension, Diabetes, Respiratory diseases
  • Acute Walk-in Outpatient coverage twenty-four hour seven-day-a-week basis through our Center’s answering service.
  • Driver’s Physicals and Job Physicals

Pediatrics (Children accepted from birth through child’s eighteenth birthday)

  • Well child Care to include: Immunizations, Lead Screenings, Hearing/ Vision Screening, School Physicals and Driver’s Physicals
  • Management of Chronic Disease states such as Asthma
  • Outpatient coverage twenty-four hour seven-day-a-week basis through our Center’s answering service.

Gynecological Services

  • Annual Gyn Exams
  • PAP Tests
  • Family Planning and minor office diagnostic procedures to include Colposcopy

Perinatal Clinic

  • Prenatal Care (For pregnant women on Medical assistance or uninsured)
  • Postpartum Care (For pregnant women on Medical Assistance or uninsured)

See the fee scale below to see if you qualify for discounted medical care:

Source: Scranton Primary Health Care Center

Scranton Primary Health Care Center Inc.

959 Wyoming Ave Scranton, PA 18509

Medical: please call 570 344-9684 or 570 969-9662

Dental: please call 570 504-0882

PHILADELPHIA COUNTY – PHILADELPHIA

Philadelphia Department of Public Health

The Department of Public Health operates eight clinics throughout the Philadelphia region. Small fees based on a sliding scale are available for the uninsured. Services offered include:

  • diagnosis and treatment of chronic and acute illnesses
  • medical check-ups and medications for enrolled patients
  • prenatal care
  • family planning and pregnancy options counseling
  • breastfeeding support services
  • comprehensive pediatric care for infants, children and teens
  • immunizations for infants, children and teens
  • children’s developmental assessments
  • healthy weight nutrition counseling for children and teens
  • nutrition counseling and health education
  • flu shots
  • HIV, STD, and STI testing
  • basic dental care, emergency dental care
  • lab tests, x-rays and tests for tuberculosis
  • referrals to specialty services for enrolled patients
  • social work support that connects patients to follow-up care, education/counseling and other services

The South Philadelphia Health & Literacy Center

1700 S. Broad Street, Unit 201

Philadelphia, PA 19145

215-685-1803

555 S. 43rd Street

Philadelphia, PA 19104

215-685-7504

4400 Haverford Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19104

215-685-7601

1900 N 20th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19121

215-685-2933

301 West Girard Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19123

215-685-3800

131 E. Chelten Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19144

215-685-5701

2230 Cottman Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19149

215-685-0639

2840 Dauphin Street

Philadelphia, PA 19132

215-685-2400

Cash Assistance in PA

Temporary cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is available to pregnant women and families with dependent children who meet all of the following eligibility requirements:

  • You must be a United States citizen and a resident of Pennsylvania. (Certain non-citizens lawfully admitted for permanent residence may be eligible.)
  • You and your family members must provide Social Security Numbers.
  • You are required to look for a job or participate in an employment and training program.
  • You are required to help the caseworker complete an Agreement of Mutual Responsibility (AMR), which is a plan for what you will do so you no longer need cash assistance. The plan may include looking for work, attending a training program, or applying for Social Security benefits. You must sign the AMR and follow through with the plan.
  • If you want cash assistance for a dependent child, you must cooperate with paternity and child support requirements, unless you have a good cause for not not cooperating. Your child must be under age 18 or age 18 and a full-time student. Your child must live with you and you must care for the child. You must need support and care for the child as a result of at least one of these things:
    • Death of the child’s parent;
    • Incapacity of the child’s parent (such as a long illness);
    • Continued absence of a parent from your home; or
    • One or both parents with no income or low income from employment.
  • Your resources (things with cash value such as bank accounts, bonds or property that is not your primary/main residence) must have a value of $1,000 or less.
  • You must report all income from employment or from other sources including, but not limited to, child support, unemployment compensation, interest, Social Security benefits, or lottery winnings.

You can apply online through the COMPASS portal or download the paper application and return it to your local Department of Human Services. Cash assistance benefits are capped at 60 months in total over the course of your lifetime.

Rent and Mortgage Assistance in PA

It can be difficult to pay your housing costs when you are unemployed in Pennsylvania. The following resources are available to help you avoid foreclosure or eviction while you are looking for work.

MORTGAGE ASSISTANCE

The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Authority created the Homeowners Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) in 1983 to help families avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. HEMAP is a not a grant program; it is a low-interest loan and all funds must be eventually repaid.

You must meet the following eligibility requirements in order to qualify:

  • You must live in the home.
  • Your mortgage can’t be more than 24 months or $60,000 delinquent.
  • You must be suffering financial hardship due to circumstances beyond your control such as job loss, reductions in pay or serious medical problems.
  • You must have a reasonable prospect of resuming full mortgage payments within 24 months. This may require documentation that shows an improvement in financial circumstances in the future.

There are two types of assistance available under HEMAP: non-continuing and continuing. Both methods of assistance are loans and must be repaid once you make enough income to begin repayment.

The minimum monthly repayment amount is $25. 

  • A non-continuing loan is available if you only need help to get current and can resume making full mortgage payments immediately.
  • A continuing loan is available if you need assistance to bring the mortgage current and additional help with monthly mortgage payments going forward.

The application process can take up to four months to complete. An applicant must meet with a designated HEMAP counseling agency within 33 days from the date of the Act 91 Notice in order to begin the application process.

The counseling agency compiles the appropriate information, prepares the application, and forwards it to HEMAP for processing. Foreclosure proceedings must cease during the application process as long as all timeframes are met during that time. Visit the HEMAP website to begin the application process. If you have questions, call 717.780.3940.

If you do not qualify, be sure to check the additional resources in this section and at the bottom of the page to see if there are other nonprofit organizations in your area that can help you with your mortgage payment if you become unemployed.

ASSISTANCE WITH RENT/EVICTION

Below is a list of organizations by city and county that may be able to help you with your rent or mortgage payments if you get behind.

ALLEGHENY COUNTY – PITTSBURGH

Allegheny Valley Association of Churches

AVAC provides emergency assistance for rent, utilities, and other basic needs to families in crisis in the Pittsburgh area.

1913 Freeport Road

Natrona Heights, PA 15065

Main Office (724) 226-0606

Food Bank – Jayne Bakos (724) 226-0606 x18

Emergency Financial Assistance – Beth Kendra  (724) 226-0606 x10

Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh

The Urban League has housing assistance programs for individuals and families who can’t afford rent or are facing homelessness through eviction. Maximum grant amount is $750 for families with children and $500 for people without dependent children.

You must provide the following in order to receive assistance:

  • Magistrate’s notice or notice of eviction from the landlord
  • Proof of previous payments or payment agreement with landlord
  • 2 pieces of mail for address verification
  • Current proof of income for one full month (most recent 30 days)
  • Photo ID (cannot be expired)
  • Social Security Card
  • Birth certificates for all children in the household ages 17 or younger.

If you believe you qualify, please call 412-227-4805 and you will be given details about how to apply.

DAUPHIN COUNTY – HARRISBURG

Christian Churches United HELP Ministries

HELP Ministries offers a variety of services for families in crisis, including a rental assistance program, energy assistance, help with medications and health care, food, and referrals to other area charities and resources.

413 S. 19th Street

Harrisburg, PA

717-238-2851

Walk-in hours are available Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. only.

LACKAWANNA COUNTY – SCRANTON

Catholic Social Services Diocese of Scranton

CSS has an emergency relief program that provides financial and material aid to families in crisis including help with rent and utilities, as well as food and clothing.

516 Fig Street

Scranton, PA 18505

Phone: 570-207-2283

PHILADELPHIA COUNTY – PHILADELPHIA

Department of Human Services Homeless Assistance Program

Your county DHS office has funding to provide emergency relief to families and individuals facing eviction or foreclosure. The grants may be used for rent or mortgage payments, security deposits, and even utility bills. You must be income qualified to receive aid.

Contact your local DHS office and ask about HAP. Phone numbers are available at the link above.

United Communities Southeast Philadelphia

This organization provides assistance with basic needs including food, rent or mortgage, utilities, medical care, clothing, and more.

Houston Center

2029 S. 8th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19148

215-468-1645, ext. 200

Southwark House

101 Ellsworth Street

Philadelphia, PA 19147

215-468-1645, ext. 300

Help with Childcare and Education Expenses in PA

Help with childcare expenses may be available through the state Department of Human Services if you meet certain eligibility requirements. You must meet the following guidelines to apply:

  • You must live in Pennsylvania
  • Have a child or children who need child care while you work or attend an education program
  • Meet income guidelines for your family size
  • Work 20 or more hours a week – or-
  • Work 10 hours and go to school or train for 10 hours a week
  • Have a promise of a job that will start within 30 days of your application for subsidized child care
  • Teen parents must attend an education program
  • The child who needs care must be a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residency
  • Have proof of identification for each parent or caretaker in the home.

The annual income for a family to be eligible to receive subsidy if 200 percent or less of the Federal Poverty Income Guidelines:

Family Size Maximum Yearly

Family Income (May 2016)

2 $32,040
3 $40,320
4 $48,600
5 $56,880
6 $65,160
7 $73,460
8 $81,780

For more information or to apply for the subsidy, contact the Child Care Information Services agency in your area. You can also apply through the COMPASS portal. The subsidy is paid directly to your childcare provider; your copayment will be based on income and family size.  

Help Paying Your Utility Bills in PA

The state Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a grant program to help individuals and families cover the cost of their winter heating bills. The grants are a one-time payment made to your energy vendor ranging in size from $200 to $1,000 per program year depending on your fuel type and the county in which you live.

Source: PA Department of Human Services

Apply online through the COMPASS portal or in person at your local County Assistance Office.

LIHEAP also offers one-time emergency assistance grants to help you repair or replace old or nonworking heating equipment. You may qualify for these grants even if you don’t qualify for the energy grants. Inquire at your local County Assistance Office.

If you do not qualify for these programs, be sure to check the list of additional resources at the bottom of this page and inquire about emergency aid for utility bills.

Help with Groceries and Food in PA

Michigan Food Assistance Program (FAP)

If you meet income requirements, you may qualify for Michigan FAP to help pay for your groceries each month. There are work requirements for the program if you are between the ages of 18 and 49; individuals without dependent children can only receive FAP benefits for up to three months in any three-year period if they do not meet the work requirements.

Apply online through MI Bridges or visit your local Department of Health and Human Services. You can call the FAP hotline at 1-855-ASK-MICH or 855-275-6424 if you have any questions about the program or the application process.

Pennsylvania WIC

Pennsylvania WIC is a federally funded program nutrition program for pregnant or nursing mothers and their children up to the age of 5. It provides healthy foods, including milk, fruits and vegetables, cheese, cereal, and proteins, plus infant formula and foods if needed.

WIC Income Guidelines Effective Date:   7/1/2016

FAMILY SIZE MONTHLY

(APPROX.)

ANNUAL WELFARE

185% HB & HBP

1 $1,831.00 $21,978.00 $21,978.00
2 $2,469.00 $29,637.00 $29,637.00
3 $3,107.00 $37,296.00 $37,296.00
4 $3,746.00 $44,955.00 $44,955.00
5 $4,384.00 $52,614.00 $52,614.00
6 $5,022.00 $60,273.00 $60,273.00
7 $5,662.00 $67,951.00 $67,951.00
8 $6,303.00 $75,647.00 $75,647.00

To apply, complete the online pre-application and you will be directed to your local WIC program office. You can also call 1-800-WIC-WINS for more information about the program and how to get started.  

Food Banks in Pennsylvania

Feeding PA is the organization that coordinates food distribution to the state’s food pantries and shelters. Contact the regional bank nearest you to find agencies near you who can help you with food and groceries.

939 East Park Drive

Harrisburg, PA 17111

Phone: 717.724.3194

Email: jclemsmith@feedingpa.org

Additional Aid and Resources by City and County in PA

If you are unable to find the help you need with the organizations and resources above, try one of these nonprofit organizations in your area. In many cases, they have crisis and emergency relief funds for help with utility bills, rent or mortgage payments, food, clothing, baby needs, health care services, and referrals to other agencies that may be able to assist you.