State Reduces General Assistance Payments
By Wendy Osher
Effective Feb. 1, 2013, General Assistance payments made by the state’s Human Services department will be reduced from $319 to $298 per person per month. This will affect an estimated 5,537 Hawaii beneficiaries.
Department officials say the reduction is due to an increase in enrollment, despite an improving economy.
The GA program provides cash benefits for clothing, shelter, food and other essentials for adults 18 through 64, without minor dependents. Beneficiaries receive assistance for an average of 8.6 months.
To be eligible, the beneficiary must have little or no income, not qualify for other categories of federal assistance, must be temporarily disabled, and not receiving Social Security assistance. The individual must also 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 GA block grant program is funded through the Hawaii Legislature. Department officials note that if there is an increase in GA beneficiaries, the DHS must decrease the individual benefit to remain within the budget ceiling.
To help prevent future payment fluctuations, the DHS this year will introduce legislation that will allow the department to supplement the GA block grant with additional department resources. “GA reductions further jeopardize the health and safety of vulnerable adults already living on the edge,” DHS Director Patricia McManaman explained.