Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How to seek recession aid

Many Pennsylvanians struggling through the recession may be able to get help through state programs, but it will mean applying and meeting certain eligibility rules, which are unchanged by Gov. Ed Rendell’s relief plan.

HEALTH CARE: Under Rendell’s plan, another 16,000 adults who are already on the waiting list for the state’s adultBasic health insurance program will get a notice this week that they can get coverage.

People can apply online or by calling 800-GO-BASIC. To be eligible, an adult must be between ages 19 and 64, have no health insurance, and meet certain income limits. For instance, an adult with a family of four must make no more than $44,100. The monthly premium is $35.

However, applicants should expect a long wait for coverage: The waiting list is 200,000 long, although people on the list can buy the adultBasic coverage at the full cost, about $330 a month. The plan also does not cover prescription drugs.


MORTGAGE PAYMENTS: Rendell’s plan means another 500 to 600 homeowners who fell behind on mortgage payments after they were laid off can get a loan through the Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program.

The help is available two ways: A lump sum to help get a homeowner current on mortgage payments, or an ongoing monthly mortgage payment supplement for as long as 36 months.

The loan carries a 6.5 percent interest rate, said Brian A. Hudson Sr., the executive director of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, which manages the program.

To apply, find a nearby credit counseling agency:

Homeowners’ Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program:

HEATING BILLS: People who need help with home heating bills will have three extra days — until April 3 — to apply for a cash grant from the LIHEAP program. The previous cutoff was March 31.

LIHEAP — which stands for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program — also has income limits. For instance, a family of four must earn no more than $44,443 annually. To apply, go online, call a county assistance office or call the state’s LIHEAP hot line at 866-857-7095.

Cash grants are available to help pay for a heating bill, and crisis grants are available to help with a heating emergency, such as a broken-down furnace. The average cash grant is $345, while the average crisis grant is $468, according to the state Department of Public Welfare, which manages the program.


By the Associated Press