The Struggle of Accessing Benefits in Philadelphia

benefit access

Every day thousands of Philadelphians seek help with applying for benefits such as; SNAP, Medical Assistance, TANF, and social security and often have to go from place to place to receive each service. The topic is important and has come to the forefront with the upcoming Mayoral election around the corner.  

According to The Promise over 350,000 Philadelphians live each day in financial crisis. 23% of residents live on less than $26,000 a year and 11% live on less than half of that. There are many barriers these Philadelphia’s face when it comes to accessing the benefits they are eligible for. It is especially difficult for seniors to visit welfare centers or organizations in person due to disabilities and learning how to apply online has its own set of challenges. It can also be stressful for single mothers to find childcare, applying for benefits can lead to long wait times which is not ideal when trying to entertain young children. There is also a stigma surrounding public benefits which may prevent people from applying. The United States has always been prideful of the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ ‘ mentality which can make accepting help difficult but we all need support when reaching our end goals. 

For immigrants, the process can be even more complicated. Immigrants can be eligible for cash, food, and medical assistance but it is not always easy to navigate the system and understand which benefits they are eligible for. Each benefit program has its own rules and qualifications. Determining whether an individual’s immigration status will restrict them from receiving a public benefit is a two-step process. First, you must determine what “type” of immigration category someone fits into. Second, determine which public benefits that immigration “type” may be able to receive. The system is difficult to understand especially when there is a language barrier so many immigrants may miss out on benefits they are eligible for. 

Local politicians need to make benefit access a priority. Neighborhood community organizations should be a one stop shop for accessing benefits. 

If you are interested in being screened for benefits please email

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