Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, a lifetime Bensalem native, began his public service career in 1990 when he was elected as the auditor of Bensalem Township. He is currently serving his 13th term in the State House of Representatives. DiGirolamo has been an outspoken advocate for drug and alcohol rehabilitation and financing, individuals with special needs, and statewide improvements in student athletics over the past 24 years in Harrisburg.
He is Chairman of the House Human Services Committee for the 2019-20 session, a position in which he can effectively continue his support of topics connected to drug and alcohol treatment and prevention. Gene is also a member of the House Committee on Consumer Affairs.
He has authored legislation increasing funding for rehabilitation centers and establishing a separate state cabinet agency, the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, to streamline drug and alcohol treatment services in Pennsylvania, as a long-time advocate for raising awareness of drug and alcohol addiction, ensuring access to treatment. Act 50 of 2010 was signed into law, establishing a new Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs. DiGirolamo also wrote Act 148 of 2012, which established methadone death and incident review teams in circumstances where methadone was a primary or contributing cause of death.
DiGirolamo has shepherded the passage of various bills he has sponsored in the house, and he is the author of five state statutes. His laws include helping to protect animals by toughening penalties for those who abuse dogs and cats and creating county-based victim impact panels (VIP) as part of the sentencing procedure for driving under the influence (DUI) offenders in Pennsylvania, in addition to his work with drug and alcohol education and recovery programs.
Gene Digirolamo bill to help disabled individuals
At a rally in the state Capitol, the Poor People’s Campaign members urged lawmakers to enhance the state’s General Assistance grant. The state House on Wednesday eliminated a cash aid program for those with impairments, those in addiction treatment, and those fleeing domestic violence.
After more than an hour of impassioned arguments from Democrats and at times vehement rebuttals from Republicans, who took issue with the debate’s framing, the result was 106-95. Rep. Greg Rothman, R-Cumberland, said, “I know my colleagues care,” after outlining existing benefits programs such as food stamps and heating assistance. “It’s all about responsibility.”
Rep. Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, is among the Democrats who have said they would welcome Republican suggestions to avoid fraud and misuse of the program. Bradford, the Democratic chair of the influential Appropriations Committee, replied, “No, this isn’t accountability.” “This is inhumane.”
Gov. Tom Corbett and the Republican-controlled legislature canceled General Assistance for the first time in 2012. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned the statute, a budget-related code measure, in 2018 because it was not considered on the required number of days. The court also dismissed the bill’s argument, following the General Assembly’s single-subject norm.
The bill passed on Wednesday will stop the program on August 1.
General Assistance costs around $150 million per year and serviced around 68,000 people until it was phased out. The vast majority of them had a lifelong impairment and were waiting for federal assistance.
Rep. Gene DiGirolamo, a Republican who supports General Assistance, has urged lawmakers to reach an agreement.
“There are components of this program that we can look at saving,” said Bucks County resident DiGirolamo.
When a person is approved for Social Security disability payments, the state is compensated by the federal government, as proponents point out. Rep. George Dunbar, R-Westmoreland, the bill’s sponsor, claims that the state got reimbursed in 20% of cases.
He declared on the House floor, “This is not a free program.”
Wolf’s plan to resurrect the program calls for far less than $150 million. In the 2019-20 fiscal year, he requests $34.177 million to cover an estimated 13,759 average monthly users and $12.7 million for the current fiscal year.
However, the bill that was enacted on Wednesday does not merely repeal General Assistance.
In the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, Democrats were faced with a “Faustian bargain” when Republicans altered the bill to increase state cash for a senior-focused aid program and extend an assessment that funnels millions of dollars to Philadelphia and its hospitals.
The amendment, according to Dunbar, is Republicans demonstrating how money previously given to General Assistance could be used in different ways.
“Basically, it shows that by eliminating financial assistance, we have more money,” Dunbar told the Capital-Star. “This is how we’ll spend our money.” We’re caring for the same people who would be receiving cash help.”
Before the bill was revised and carried on a party-line vote, ranking Appropriations Democrat Matt Bradford of Montgomery County compared the alterations to a bargain with the devil.
Bradford stated, “I don’t believe we should set one [program] against the other.”
Wolf administration spokesperson J.J. Abbott told the Capital-Star that Gov. Tom Wolf still intends to save the program.
“Negotiations and the budget procedure are still ongoing. “Despite Governor Wolf’s unequivocal opposition and many efforts to negotiate a compromise, Republicans have made abolishing General Assistance a primary priority,” he stated.
Programs of the Federal Government
The federal government provides a slew of services under the Making Home Affordable program to assist homeowners facing foreclosure. If you are disabled and have just lost your job, you may be eligible for partial compensation under the Home Affordable Unemployment Program. You could even get your lender to permanently forgive a portion of your mortgage balance or lower your interest rate. However, all of these programs usually have limits on the value of your property and require that Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac does not own your mortgage.
Putting an End to Foreclosure
Contact your local Housing and Urban Development office to speak with a mortgage counselor. You might be able to save your house even if your lender has initiated foreclosure procedures. For example, you might be eligible for the Emergency Homeowners’ Loan Program, designed exclusively for the unemployed or persons late on their mortgage due to a medical condition. It would be best to speak with a HUD-approved counselor since some mortgage scams demand hundreds of dollars upfront to halt foreclosure and then disappear with your money.
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