Benefits Data Trust and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Collaborate to Connect Unemployed Workers to Food and Other Assistance

7.5 million American workers to lose unemployment benefits

Philadelphia, PA,  August 25, 2021  –  National nonprofit Benefits Data Trust is working with the Pennsylvania Departments of Human Services (DHS) and Labor & Industry (L&I) to conduct outreach to workers denied unemployment compensation (UC) or about to lose UC, to assist them with applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other benefit programs. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn has created an urgent need to connect those who have lost jobs to public benefits. With three key federal pandemic-related unemployment programs set to expire in less than two weeks, 7.5 million people across the country are expected to lose unemployment support, including nearly 500,000 in Pennsylvania on September 4. As new variants emerge and COVID continues to wreak havoc on communities, it is critical to make sure that individuals and families have the resources to meet their basic needs. 

“No one should feel like they have to endure the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty that many have experienced in the last year alone. And while unemployment compensation programs have ended, Pennsylvania has support available for food needs, rental and utility assistance, health care, and others, and I strongly encourage all families who are struggling to make ends meet to consider these resources as well to help your family heal and move forward from this extended crisis,” said Acting DHS Secretary Meg Snead. “If you or someone you know could use a hand, please let us try to help so we can emerge from this crisis together.” 

Through this collaborative effort, BDT will conduct targeted outreach via direct mail to Pennsylvanians who were denied, have lost, or are about to lose unemployment insurance to alert them of potential eligibility for food assistance and other benefits; individuals will then be directed to a call center or to connect them with resources to help them apply. 

During the Great Recession in the early 2000s, BDT worked with the Departments of Public Welfare (now called DHS) and L&I to unlock $24 million in SNAP benefits annually for unemployed Pennsylvanians. Over the first three years of the partnership, BDT contacted 253,000 households and screened 48,000 for potential eligibility, resulting in the submission of over 17,000 SNAP applications; those approved received an average benefit of $193 per month. This partnership was very successful, and not only helped individuals and families put food on the table but also generated nearly $40 million in economic activity during the years of outreach. 

"Experience shows that data-driven outreach can improve benefits access and help families meet their critical needs," said Trooper Sanders, CEO of Benefits Data Trust. "I am proud that this important partnership will help families across the state make ends meet and move ahead during these challenging times."  

Applications for SNAP, Medical Assistance (Medicaid), the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, and other public assistance programs can be submitted to DHS online at SNAP and Medical Assistance applications can also be submitted over the phone by calling 1-866-550-4355. On-site County Assistance Office services are now available if clients cannot access online services or need assistance that cannot be accessed through the COMPASS website, the myCOMPASS PA mobile app, or by calling the Customer Service Centers at 215-560-7226 for Philadelphia clients or 1-877-395-8930 for clients in all other counties. 

BDT stands ready to assist other states in connecting those denied or losing UC to other public benefit programs. Those interested in learning more should reach out to   

About Benefits Data Trust  

Benefits Data Trust (BDT) harnesses the power of data, technology, and policy to provide efficient and dignified access to assistance, improving people’s health and financial security. Together with a national network of government agencies and other partners, we streamline public benefits systems and directly connect eligible families and individuals to programs that help pay for food, healthcare, housing, and more. A nonprofit since 2005, BDT has secured more than $7.5 billion in benefits for households across the country, building pathways to economic mobility and a more equitable future. Learn more at:   

About the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services 

The Department of Human Services’ mission is to assist Pennsylvanians in leading safe, healthy, and productive lives through equitable, trauma-informed, and outcome-focused services while being an accountable steward of commonwealth resources. Our vision is that all Pennsylvanians live safe, healthy, and independent lives, free of discrimination and inequity. DHS serves low-income Pennsylvanians through cash assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formally known as food stamps; home heating assistance; the Emergency Rental Assistance Program; Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF; employment and training programs; and assistance programs for refugees and the homeless. Many of these services are delivered through more than 90 county assistance offices located across Pennsylvania.