General Questions

Where should Pennsylvanians go regarding updates on COVID-19 and information on testing?

The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) is the primary source of up-to-date information on COVID-19 in Pennsylvania. Visit the Department of Health’s COVID-19 website for information on the virus, testing, and resources for the public and stakeholders:

Where should DHS providers go for updates to DHS programs in response to COVID-19?

Resources specific to the Department of Human Services (DHS) can be found at:

How is DHS addressing food insecurity during this crisis?

DHS is working to ensure access to food does not stop during this time of emergency. We know that this pandemic has caused many people and families to find that they are suddenly food insecure and require assistance. DHS has operationalized its Feeding Task Force. The Feeding Task Force is comprised of public, private, and non-profit partners from across the state, including, among others, the Governor’s Food Security Partnership state agencies, the Salvation Army, Feeding PA and other charitable food organizations, and the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association. This task force is the centralized hub where we identify available resources, determine where needs are, how many meals are needed, how we are getting food to people, and how we are getting volunteers to help charitable food networks across Pennsylvania. This includes ensuring populations like children, older adults, and others with food insecurities are provided with nourishing meals.

We also continue to process SNAP applications. Pennsylvanians can apply online at:

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture also has information on its website at: If individual food pantries close, individuals can call their regional food bank, all of which are operating. Links are provided that list the regional food bank contact information.

A full list of what is covered and not covered by SNAP can be found in our SNAP Handbook, section 503.3, at: These are specified in federal regulation and no changes or modifications were made as a part of the COVID-19 bill that Congress passed.

Further, PA 211 is available statewide, and is focused on connecting people who are losing work and struggling to meet their basic needs to resources that may be available to help during the pandemic. Pennsylvanians can dial 211, or text their zip code to 898-211 in order to connect to 211 resource navigators.

What is DHS doing to make sure families and the elderly do not have a disruption of benefits and services?

The Office of Income Maintenance (OIM) is continuing Medicaid in compliance with the Families First Corona Virus Response Act. We will not discontinue other benefits during this period for people who continue to meet eligibility criteria. We will not automatically close cases because we don’t receive necessary paperwork.

The Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) is working with the Community HealthChoices Managed Care Organizations (CHC-MCOs) to monitor participants more closely and educate them on risk factors and symptoms of COVID-19. CHC-MCOs and Aging Well will be suspending long-term care clinical eligibility redeterminations during the COVID-19 crisis period.

The Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) has extended eligibility redeterminations to 18 months so participants in ODP’s programs will not lose services during this period.

The Office of Children Youth and Families (OCYF) is working closely with county children and youth agencies and service providers to mitigate risk for children and families served through this system and the workforce. At this time, all visits for children in foster care can be completed through video conferencing. This is also true for families receiving ongoing general protective services where the situation has been determined to be low-risk or where imminent danger to a child is not present. While face-to-face visits are still required for new allegations of child abuse and neglect where imminent danger to a child does appear to be present or risk of abuse or neglect seems to be high, the workforce is encouraged to maintain social distancing practices whenever possible and to implement guidelines recommended by the DOH.

OCYF Regional Offices remain available to work with county agencies to discuss individual situations as they arise.

Is DHS issuing guidance to specific provider fields?

Yes, DHS is regularly issuing and updating guidance as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses. Guidance that has been issued can be found at:

What services are considered essential and life-sustaining during this period?

The list of essential, life-sustaining services and businesses is available here: If this link is updated and no longer works, visit for updated guidance.

What support will the state provide for the consumer directed home care workforce who do not have PTO but are sick or have child care needs?

OCDEL is offering waivers for child care centers that support employees in critical roles including direct care workers. The purpose of the waivers is to support essential personnel including the direct care workforce and to provide flexibility so that these individuals may continue to go to work and support their vulnerable clients.

For direct support workers serving people with intellectual disabilities, the Office of Developmental Programs’ (ODP) self-directed services allow for a benefits allowance to be paid to support service workers. This was in place prior to COVID-19. This was intended to be used to accommodate the fact that workers in self-directed models do not have PTO.

Are the Consumer Complaint Lines still operating for DHS’ Medicaid Offices?

Yes, consumer lines run by the ODP, OLTL, OMAP, and OMHSAS are still operative. Callers may experience increased wait times or may have to leave a message, but lines are staffed and inquiries will be returned.

Many of the domestic violence programs are having to place survivors in hotels due to the challenges related to communal living and the needs for social distancing. Placing individuals and families in hotels is much more expensive than sheltering. Will the programs be able to be reimbursed for the extra costs associated?

Under its grant agreement, the Department reimburses grantee and its subgrantees for the costs of providing shelter, including shelter in hotels and motels up to the maximum grant amount. If the grantee’s costs for providing shelter exceed the maximum grant amount, the Department is able to increase the grant amount subject to the availability of funding; however, grantee and domestic violence program should not assume the availability of additional funding. At this time, the Department is still able to process invoices for grant services so grantee and its subgrantees should continue to invoice for the costs of providing shelter, including shelter provided in hotels and motels. DHS continues to explore additional funding opportunities for domestic violence programs for increased costs related to the COVID-19.

Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) Questions

How is the COVID-19 situation affecting child care centers?

Child care facilities were closed statewide on March 16, 2020 to support COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Exceptions to this policy are family child care homes and group child care homes operating inside a residence. Closures and operational guidance are communicated directly to child care providers and other early education and early intervention providers through the child care certification listserv and the Pennsylvania early education listserv.

This temporary closure of child care facilities may be a burden for Pennsylvania families who depend on this service. Because it is especially burdensome for essential personnel such as health care workers and first responders who must have safe and stable care options for their children in order to report to work, OCDEL has implemented a waiver process for child care centers and group child care homes that serve these families. Operators of these facilities who seek a waiver from the Commonwealth’s temporary closure order should contact OCDEL at Facilities requesting a waiver may continue operating pending waiver approval.

How can a child care center get a waiver to continue operating? Child care programs seeking a waiver from the commonwealth’s temporary closure order should complete the Exemption of Directive to Temporary Close form available at: Completed waiver forms should be emailed to OCDEL at RA-PWDRACERT@PA.GOV.

The City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Department of Health have developed a separate additional process, requirements, and approval system for facilities operating in Philadelphia. Child care centers and group child care homes operating outside of a residence seeking to remain open in Philadelphia must complete both the OCDEL waiver request linked above and the Philadelphia waiver form available here:

There are concerns about parents who will have to continue to pay for child care when their facility is closed, per the governor’s order. Does OCDEL have authority over billing when a child care provider is closed?

The provider agreement is between the child care and the family, and DHS and OCDEL do not have authority over the contents of this agreement. OCDEL only has authority over copays for families that qualify for subsidized child care through Child Care Works. Most provider agreements include payment language in the event of a closure. Typically, this is related to weather or other short-term events. In this mandated closure period, and in the event it could potentially extend longer, families could be economically challenged and unable to fulfill the terms of their provider agreement.

For child care facilities that are closed, OCDEL is strongly recommending providers do not collect ongoing fees for this extended closure duration. We are requesting facilities communicate decisions regarding the provider agreement to enrolled families, including the facilities’ process to suspend or terminate the agreement.

If a child care facility receives Child Care Works (CCW) subsidies, will the employees of those facilities be ensured that they are paid as well?

CCW payments provide compensation for a child’s enrollment, not for staffing costs. Providers can have any number of children enrolled participating in CCW and the payment we are making may/may not cover the cost of paying staff, rent, and utilities. Under the current CCW Provider Agreement, OCDEL does not have authority at this time to mandate how providers who continue to receive CCW subsidies use these funds.

Will the department consider approval of Tele-therapy for Early Intervention services under the Part C/ Birth to 3 Early Intervention program?

Yes, guidance is being developed and will be issued to providers once it is complete and will be available on our website here:

Where could I find information regarding rules and laws related to co-pays for parents receiving CCW?

Please see OCDEL announcement: ELRC-20 #04 Child Care Works Payment Modifications Due to Impacts Related to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) at:

A child care facility told their employees it is voluntary to work. If someone elects to stay home, are they guaranteed their position when they decide to go back to work?

Employer-Employee relations are not under the authority of OCDEL.

Are Family Centers continuing to operate or are they not determined to be essential?

Family Centers received a communication from DHS indicating they should cease face-to-face meetings. If they have the means to implement telepractice with model fidelity and wish to do so, and clients are willing and able to participate, they may continue their work via telepractice. Each of the evidence-based models communicated to enrolled families their intent to support families through telepractice if families are interested.

Office of Children, Youth, and Families (OCYF) Questions

Can congregate care programs that have school programs continue those programs?

Congregate care programs should contact the Pennsylvania Department of Education for guidance on school programs.

Are there any changes to/interruption to the Kinship Care navigation support line?

The Kinship Navigator hotline continues to operate as normal and can be reached at 1-866-KIN-2111.

Can OCYF waive the requirement for face-to-face check-ins with children in foster care and allow this to happen via video conferencing, or would that require a federal statutory change/address in the national emergency order?

The federal Children’s Bureau released guidance to states permitting use of video or teleconferencing methods for completing the required 30-days caseworker visits for children in foster care. This guidance from the federal government along with the Governor’s emergency disaster declaration will allow OCYF to suspend state regulatory requirements for the check-in to be face to face. Video conferencing is still expected to occur within the normal timelines. OCYF has communicated this guidance to county children and youth agencies and providers.

Young people must meet eligibility requirements related to participation in activities like school and work to remain eligible for extended foster care. Since many of these activities are being disrupted significantly or canceled, are DHS and OCYF willing to direct county child welfare agencies to: 1. waive eligibility requirements during this time period and 2. prohibit agencies from discharging any youth from extended foster care during this time period to ensure their safety and well-being?

While the eligibility requirements for older youth to remain in extended foster care are set forth in statute, OCYF supports broad interpretation of the requirements at this time to allow for these older youth to remain in care. For example, one eligibility option is that a youth be “enrolled” in a post-secondary or vocational education program, which means even if college or vocational classes are suspended, a youth could still be eligible for extended foster care as long as they remain enrolled. It should also be noted that the final determination that the child meets necessary eligibility criteria is made by the court, not the children and youth agency.

Is there a plan for if young children who need to enter foster care have COVID-19 and there is not a foster home willing to accept them or all available foster parents are high risk based on age/health conditions?

OCYF is working with county children and youth agencies and providers to explore contingency models in anticipation that this could become an issue, however it is not something that has been brought to the attention of OCYF as a problem agencies are experiencing at this time.

Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth, and Family Services members are having trouble hiring new employees because of the closure of federal fingerprinting centers due to COVID-19. How is DHS handling this closure?

This affects numerous fields, so DHS is closely monitoring this issue alongside the Governor’s Office. We will issue guidance if necessary.

Office of Developmental Programs (ODP) Questions

What criteria will be used to reassess closure of day programs at the end of 14 days? When and what type of guidance will be provided?

Providers of day programs have received instruction on continued operations from ODP including: (1) process for receipt of retainer payments, (2) shifting service delivery from facility based to provide essential support to program participants using remote/telephone support and in private homes and (3) redeployment of day program staff to residential programs. Multiple factors will be taken into account in making the determination for reopening these programs. The population served in these facilities is a very high-risk population for COVID-19.

Will there be any cancelation of services for people in the Adult Autism Waiver?

No, ODP is not cancelling any services. ODP is working with stakeholders to identify and remove barriers during the COVID-19 response to maintain services for individuals and families. On March 18, 2020 CMS approved ODP’s application for Appendix K for the Adult Autism Waiver. This will allow additional flexibility for the system and will help to mitigate financial and staffing strain on providers to keep services active. With this approval, Day Habilitation facility staff can provide services in private homes. We will be issuing Operational Guidance to the field early the week of March 23, 2020.

Office of Income Maintenance (OIM) Questions

Will individuals and households be able to apply for benefits?

Anyone seeking benefits administered by the Office of Income Maintenance (OIM) can submit an application on-line by using the COMPASS website at: Applicants may also send paper applications via U.S. Mail to their local CAO.

Will applicants for public assistance have access to benefits to provide immediate relief?

DHS currently provides Medical Assistance, SNAP, TANF Diversion, LIHEAP and LIHEAP crisis. All will continue to be available under current policies. People can apply by accessing our online application at If the federal government or state government establishes other programs providing immediate relief under DHS’ purview, we will communicate with stakeholders and the public.

Will clients who are eligible for Medical Assistance for Workers with Disabilities (MAWD) be closed if they are furloughed from their job?

Clients who are eligible for MAWD can be granted Good Cause during periods where they are furloughed from employment. MAWD coverage will not be canceled based on a lack of employment. Additionally, Good Cause can be granted to waive MAWD premium payments for up to two months. Note: This may be extended with the passage of the Families First Corona Virus Response Act.

Should clients report any changes to their circumstances during this time?

Clients should attempt to report any changes in their circumstances during this time. Reductions in income and/or changes in employment should be reported so CAO staff can update benefits accordingly. Policies are being put in place that will allow these changes to be acted on more quickly in response to the impacts of COVID-19.

Will public assistance recipients be required to go to work or training to meet the employment and training requirements?

Participants are not required to attend brick and mortar Employment and Training (E&T) program facilities or other related physical locations. Participants who are currently in E&T programming will work with providers to discuss opportunities to complete remote activities related to E&T. Examples of remote activities include online job searching, brushing up on interviewing skills, or working on resumes using electronic resources. Participants will be working with program providers to determine if those activities are feasible during this time. Because of illness, lack of internet or phone or other issues, not all parties will be able to participate remotely. One’s ability to participate will be determined on a case by case basis. If remote activities are not an option, there will be no penalty for non-participation.

New TANF recipients who are mandatory for participation in E&T activities will be granted good cause from participation by CAOs until E&T programs reopen.

What proof will people need to provide regarding hours of work, and how quickly can benefits be increased?

DHS will accept the person’s statement. Per program rules, changes are generally effective the month after the month of the reported change. If it is later found that the person’s hours were not reduced or that their statement was otherwise false, the Department will file an overpayment for benefits received based on that false statement.

Are considerations being taken for staff deemed essential and required to work in CAOs?

CAOs have been closed to the public so employees can focus on benefit delivery to clients. The Department of General Services reached out to all landlords to request that they follow CDC recommendations around cleaning. OIM is actively pursuing the purchase of cleaning supplies and hand sanitizers from any source available. We are looking for additional office space for CAO staff as well as other options that would allow for social distancing.

Are CAOs still able to process applications and adequately ensure the integrity/validity of information submitted?

CAOs are staffed and completing the essential work necessary to ensure individuals who are eligible receive benefits. The online COMPASS application tool allows clients to apply for benefits, compete renewals, provide required verifications, and report changes remotely without needing to come to a CAO in-person. CAO staff can accept information provided through COMPASS and take appropriate actions. Additionally, clients with smart phones can access the COMPASS mobile app – myCOMPASSPA – to report changes, upload documents, complete semi-annual renewals, and view benefit status.

Clients are also contacting the customer service centers, which are making changes and updates to client case records as necessary. Clients in Philadelphia with questions or information to report about their case should call the Philadelphia Customer Service Center at 215-560-7226. Clients in all other counties can call the Statewide Customer Service Center at 1-877-395-8930. Call volumes and wait times are likely to be high, and we appreciate the public’s patience with the dedicated commonwealth employees working to assist clients under stressful circumstances.

Clients can also apply for Medicaid benefits by telephone through our contracted consumer service center at 1-866-550-4355.

Are deadlines for applications and certification periods for benefits being extended? For how long are deadlines extended?

OIM will continue to process application and renewal benefits, so people should continue to send in paperwork as usual. But, for anyone who misses a deadline, who is not able to submit the paperwork or complete an interview or provide verifications for any reason during this emergency, we will ensure their benefits continue during this period. In order to maintain program integrity and per current federal law, DHS is not permitted to continue benefits (except for Medicaid) for people who no longer meet the eligibility criteria to qualify.

DHS has requested waivers from FNS to extend certification periods so SNAP benefits will not close during the COVID-19 emergency. The waiver request is pending; however, while we are waiting for approval, cases will not be automatically closed.

DHS already has authority to extend cash assistance and Medicaid in cases of emergency. If, however, a client has everything they need to submit to the CAO to complete their renewal, the client should submit the renewal and supporting documentation. CAOs are staffed and will be processing benefits and supporting documentation.

What is being done or contemplated as a replacement for face-to-face interviews for TANF?

Telephone interviews are being done in lieu of face-to-face interviews for TANF. No other programs under the OIM require face-to-face interviews.

Is there any movement in allowing SNAP to be used for grocery delivery services?

Online grocery shopping with EBT is not available in Pennsylvania and is currently only in pilot through FNS in a handful of other states. It is not an option that states can opt into at this time. If FNS opens an opportunity to participate, DHS will evaluate our ability to do so. More information regarding online pilots can be found at this link:

If someone needs to pick up an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card while the CAOs are closed to the public, how can they get their EBT card?

During the time that the CAOs are closed to the public, the CAO will send the card via US mail. Clients can contact the Customer Service Center at 1-877-395-8930. If a client needs a replacement card, the client can contact OIM’s EBT vendor, Conduent, at 888-328-7366.

Will DHS make changes to the 2019-2020 LIHEAP season in response to this crisis?

DHS is currently evaluating the best possible way to support the needs of the LIHEAP eligible population with the limited federal funds available. Applications continue to be available online and on paper.

How should KEYS programs function during this period?

KEYS programs are working with their community colleges to provide opportunities for participants to complete online coursework as a result of statewide COVID-19 mitigation efforts being enacted. Some providers have also engaged participants in remote activities that meet participation requirements as

many schools have been on spring break. KEYS providers have been reaching out to participants to ensure that they understand the new expectations as well as engage them in online coursework during this closure period. If participants are unable to do so due to COVID-19 related reasons (i.e. illness, no internet, no computer or laptop, etc.), they will not be terminated from the KEYS program nor be sanctioned due to non-compliance.

Students that are unable to participate may have concerns regarding their financial aid eligibility. Financial aid decisions are still being evaluated by the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) and they have committed to providing additional guidance on or around March 23, 2020. Federal Student Aid currently asks that all inquiries related to an inability to participate be referred to the participant’s community college for additional guidance.

Office of Long-Term Living (OLTL) Questions

Will telehealth requirements and policies be expanded for OLTL?

Telehealth and telephonic supports to OLTL participants are already a part of the CHC and OBRA waivers and will be encouraged during the COVID-19 crisis period. The Appendix K waiver also creates more flexibility for use of telehealth.

Office of Medical Assistance Programs (OMAP) Questions

Does a telemedicine bill need to pass the legislature, or can this be done by executive order? Will DHS require MCOs to utilize and pay providers?

Legislation is not necessary. OMAP is working within the updated and expanded policies announced by CMS to expand our coverage of these services. OMAP has also instructed MCOs to bring their telemedicine coverage into alignment with the coverage being offered in the fee-for-service program. Guidance on telehealth issued by OMAP is available here:

Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) Questions

If behavioral health providers begin to offer services through telehealth during this time, will there be reauthorization requirements or additional copays?

Behavioral health services delivered through the HealthChoices or fee-for-service programs as part of an existing authorization period do not need to be reauthorized for the purpose of delivering the same services through telehealth. Reauthorization requirements and co-pays apply no differently than if the services were delivered in an office or clinic setting. DHS cannot speak to commercial or employer-sponsored insurance.

The anxiety around COVID-19 will cause more people to turn to behavioral health providers as a support network. How can we help our workforce who will most likely be overwhelmed?

We encourage people to check on each other and support each other as we navigate this crisis. We would call special attention to making the distinction between social distancing and physical distancing. We can still be social while maintaining safe physical distance. There are ways to interact safely while practicing social distancing. Technology can facilitate meaningful interactions.

More information on managing stress and anxiety through this crisis can be found at: