Cash Assistance

The federal government provides different types of cash assistance to those in need based on if a person has children or not.

Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF)

TANF provides a monthly cash assistance allowance to low-income individuals, families, caregiver/relative of eligible child, and pregnant women that meet eligibility requirements as defined by the Department of Public Welfare.  Eligibility requirements may vary from state to state.

It is important to note that TANF benefits and eligibility are subject to change, and TANF is a time-limited program (e.g., recipients are limited to a total of 50 months, or 5 years, cash assistance in his/her lifetime).

TANF benefits may include the following:

  • Monthly cash assistance allowance
  • Transportation for necessary medical care
  • Ambulance services
  • Transportation for non-emergency medical care for prescription drugs
  • Transportation to work (situation specific)
  • Eligibility for Medical Assistance (Medicaid)
  • One-time grant for clothing and personal care items for those admitted to a rehabilitation center or residential school when these are a condition of admission and the individual cannot provide for him/herself

Please note that not every individual is eligible for each benefit.

TANF Eligibility Requirements

Income is a major factor in determining eligibility for TANF.  Income for TANF purposes is defined as money from employment or from other sources including, but not limited to, social security benefits, lottery winnings, and unemployment compensation.  All income must be reported to the county assistance office which then determines how much of the total income is counted towards a monthly earned income amount using the Family Size Allowance chart.

Other general eligibility requirements also include social security numbers for all applicants, meet residency and citizenship requirements, and adult recipients are required to participate in an employment and training program or seek employment.

The information provided is only a brief explanation of basic eligibility requirements for TANF.  It does not include all eligibility requirements or cover all situations.  Contact the local county assistance office or call the Welfare Helpline toll-free at 1-800-692-7462 for more information.

Applying for TANF Benefits

In Pennsylvania, you may apply for TANF by using the COMPASS website, or by completing a paper form that can be mailed to the county assistance office.  To obtain a paper form, contact the Allegheny County Assistance Office Headquarters at (412) 565-2146.  They will also be able to inform you of the closest assistance office to your home within Allegheny County.

Depending on individual circumstance and available information, you may be asked to schedule an appointment with a county caseworker to discuss your eligibility and to verify your identity.


General Assistance (GA)

GA provides a monthly cash assistance allowance to low-income persons who do not meet the requirements for TANF, yet are still eligible as individuals or couples with no dependent children, who have temporary or permanent disabilities that prevent their employment.

GA benefits may include the following services:

  • Inpatient hospital services
  • Inpatient mental health services
  • Mental health partial hospitalization services
  • Mental health clinic services, including psychotherapy
  • Outpatient hospital clinic services
  • Drug and alcohol clinic services
  • Laboratory and x-ray services
  • Physicians, podiatrists, chiropractic, and dental services
  • Some prescription medications
  • Home health care services
  • Emergency room care services

GA Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for GA, you must fit into one of these categories:

  • Under age 18 or 18 - 20 years of age and attending a secondary or equivalent school and expected to graduate before the age of 21
  • Parents in a two-parent household with a child under age 13 or a child over the age of 13 with a disability (only eligible for GA if not eligible for TANF)
  • Temporary or permanent physical or mental disability which prevents the applicant from working
  • Undergoing active treatment for substance abuse in an approved drug or alcohol program if the treatment program precludes any form of employment (please note - there is a nine month lifetime limit for receipt of benefits under this criterion)
  • Victim of domestic violence (please note - there is a nine month lifetime limit for receipt of benefits under this criterion)
  • Pregnant woman not eligible for TANF
  • Adult, other than a relative, that is caring for a child under age 13
  • Caring for another household member that is disabled or ill, if there is no other adult in the household who is capable of providing care (please note - the household would be reviewed for TANF eligibility before GA eligibility)

Income is a major factor in determining eligibility for GA.  Income for GA purposes is defined as money from employment or from other sources including, but not limited to, social security benefits, lottery winnings, and unemployment compensation.  All income must be reported to the county assistance office which then determines how much of the total income is counted towards a monthly earned income amount using the Family Size Allowance chart.

Other general eligibility requirements also include social security numbers for all applicants and meeting residency and citizenship requirements.

The information provided is only a brief explanation of basic eligibility requirements for GA.  It does not include all eligibility requirements or cover all situations.  Contact the local county assistance office or call the Welfare Helpline toll-free at 1-800-692-7462 for more information.

Applying for GA Benefits

In Pennsylvania, you may apply for GA by using the COMPASS website, or by completing a paper form that can be mailed to the county assistance office.  To obtain a paper form, contact the Allegheny County Assistance Office Headquarters at (412) 565-2146.  They will also be able to inform you of the closest assistance office to your home within Allegheny County.

Depending on individual circumstance and available information, you may be asked to schedule an appointment with a county caseworker to discuss your eligibility and to verify your identity.

Source Information for this page can be found here.