Friday, August 28, 2015

Philly schools could be hubs for government benefits


Instead of the welfare office and City Hall, Philadelphia residents may soon be lining up at schools to apply for government benefits.

proposed bill by the Philadelphia City Council would make public schools the “one-stop location” for government handouts, including everything from Section 8 housing subsidies to reproductive health services.

Though the School-Based Family Services Program would focus on providing public services to children, the program extends coverage to parents and family members, creating “neighborhood-based community hubs,” which would cut down on trips to various government agencies in town.

“The Philadelphia School District’s schools offer the potential to serve as one-stop locations, where children and their families could receive those services intended to increase the likelihood that those children will thrive both in school and in their homes,” states the legislation.

Considering the bill is sponsored by 11 of 16 Philadelphia City Council members, it’s destined to pass once a public hearing is held sometime in the coming weeks, according to a legislative aide of 3rd District Councilwoman Janie Blackwell, one of the sponsors of the bill.

Such a program is targeted at families who regularly interact with government officials providing welfare and other government resources.”Services should be provided in a coordinated, comprehensive manner, and ideally at one nearby location, so that children and their parents, grandparents, or guardians do not have to expend precious time and resources navigating from one agency to another, and instead have easy access to the services they need close to where they live,” it reads.

In other cities, school-based social services are mostly limited to behavioral and physical health programs, such as the School Based Health Centers in Las Cruces, N.M. It’s strictly limited to immunizations, counseling, and basic health services, according to the New Mexico Alliance for School-Based Health Care, a nonprofit based in Albuquerque which helps administer the aid.

The “School Based Youth Services” in nearby New Jersey focuses more on mentoring and less on access to government benefits. The program concentrates on tutoring and employment services, according to its website.

Philadelphia’s program would give provide access to the Departments of Public Health and Parks and Recreation, the Philadelphia Housing Authority, and various mayoral programs created to give food subsidies to poor households, casting a much wider net than school-based services in other states.

Councilwoman Blackwell did not return’s request for comment.

The Pennsylvania Independent is a public interest journalism project dedicated to promoting open, transparent, and accountable state government by reporting on the activities of agencies, bureaucracies, and politicians in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is funded by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a libertarian nonprofit organization.

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