Applying for Benefits

You may apply either in-person or by computer.

Applying for benefits in person
Applying for benefits using the Internet
Your initial interview
When will I know that I will receive benefits?

Applying in person

To find out which welfare office to go to:

Call the State Helpline at 1-800-692-7462 or the Allegheny County DPW Communications Department at 412-565-2146 and tell them the zip code where you live. They will direct you to the correct office.

A Common Application Form is used to apply for cash, food stamps and medical assistance programs. To apply:

1. Get an application from any welfare office.

2. Fill out as much of the form as you can and sign it. Indicate on the application which programs you are applying for by checking the applicable boxes. If you have trouble filling it out, a worker at the welfare office can help you finish it. You can also ask a friend or relative to help.

3. Return the application to the district welfare office that serves your area. You can submit an application to the welfare office in person, by mail, or over the Internet (see below).

If you can’t go to the welfare office because of your age or a disability, another person can be an “authorized representative” and apply and be interviewed on your behalf.

  • You must appoint this person in writing.
  • This person cannot be a member of your household.

If you cannot find anyone to be your representative and you are homebound, the welfare office must help make arrangements.

Applying for Benefits using the Internet

In Pennsylvania you can apply for all kinds of social services from a computer hooked up to the Internet. The service is called COMPASS: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Application for Social Services.

You can find it by clicking here: This is a fast way to apply for benefits if you have access to a computer, but it takes some time to get used to. The website includes information in languages other than English. If you’re not proficient with using websites, get somebody to help you, or get help at a community agency or library.

You will still need to have a face-to-face interview for cash assistance and mail some documents such as your signature and proof of income within 30 days. For most other programs, a face-to-face is not required. But the application process will begin when you fill out the electronic application. You should get a follow-up letter within 30 days of filling out the application to inform you about your interview date.

Your Initial Interview

What to bring to the interview :

You will need to provide proof of your household’s circumstances. These are the kinds of things you should bring:

  • Proof of your identity such as driver’s license, library card, or voter’s registration
  • Social Security cards for all persons in the household
  • Proof of residence for all persons in the household (homeless persons need only a mailing address.) You must live in the county where the application is made.
  • Names and proof of age of all persons applying
  • Proof of shelter costs; copies of rent or mortgage payments, insurance, tax receipts, utility bills
  • Proof of income such as pay stubs, award letters or other documents showing amount received
  • Information about resources such as cash on hand, money in checking/savings accounts, real estate, motor vehicles, etc. (For cash and medical only)
  • If you chose to authorize a proxy to access your benefits, you must bring that person to the interview.

Depending on the program you are applying for and your individual circumstances, you may need to provide more information to establish your eligibility. The welfare office will let you know what other information they need. If you have trouble getting any information, the worker at the welfare office should help you.

Tip: Always provide complete and honest information.

When will I know that I will receive benefits?

The welfare office must make a decision about your application within a certain period of time depending on the program you applied for. They are required to decide within 30 days, but it can be sooner such as when you are applying for expedited food stamps which must be determined within 5 days.

You should receive written notice of their decision. If you are approved for benefits, the benefits will start from the date you submitted your application. If you are denied benefits you should receive a written denial from the welfare office. If you do not receive a written denial notice within 30 days of your initial application, call the welfare office where you applied and ask to speak to a supervisor.

Remember: you can appeal any decision, including a denial!!!