State Reduces General Assistance Payments

Posted on Jan 18, 2013 in NEWS

For Immediate Release:  January 18, 2013

 State Reduces General Assistance Benefits

The Department of Human Services (DHS) is reducing General Assistance (GA) assistance benefits next month.  Effective February 1, 2013, GA payments will be reduced from $319 to $298 per month for an estimated 5,535 Hawai‘i beneficiaries.

The General Assistance program provides cash benefits for clothing, shelter, food and other essentials for adults 18 through 64, without minor dependants.  Beneficiaries must be temporarily disabled and not receiving Social Security assistance.  To be eligible the beneficiary must have little or no income, not qualify for other categories of federal assistance, and be certified by the DHS medical board as unable to engage in substantial employment of at least 30 work hours per week for a period of at least 60 days.

The Hawai‘i Legislature funds the GA block grant program. The maximum allowance a GA recipient may receive is determined by dividing the amount of the Legislature’s appropriation by the number of general assistance recipients.   If there is an increase in GA beneficiaries, the DHS must decrease the individual benefit to remain within the budget ceiling.

In fiscal year 2011, the monthly benefit level was set initially at $353, but following a 4.5% enrollment increase, benefits were reduced to $319 per month in October 2011.   Currently, the DHS is serving an additional 239 beneficiaries, another 4.5% increase over the previous year.  This increase in enrollment is triggering the reduction in monthly GA payments.

Beneficiaries receive assistance for an average of 8.6 months.   DHS Director Patricia McManaman says, “Although the nation and Hawai’i continue to experience slow but steady economic growth, the benefits of a growing economy have not yet impacted many of DHS’ programs.  We continue to experience increased enrollment across our programs, including GA.”  To help prevent future payment fluctuations, the DHS will introduce legislation this year that will allow it to supplement the GA block grant with additional Department resources.  Director McManaman says “GA reductions further jeopardize the health and safety of vulnerable adults already living on the edge.”

For more information about the General Assistance Program, visit the Department of Human Services website http://humanservices.hawaii.gov/bessd