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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Today is the first installment in a special series on General Assistance-Unemployable, a state program that provides assistance to adults who cannot work because of disability and are not eligible for other programs.

State investments in health and economic security ensure that everyone can meet basic needs in times of financial hardship. The General Assistance-Unemployable (GA-U) program provides temporary assistance to Washingtonians that are unable to work due to disability. The program plays an important role in the state’s health care and economic security infrastructure by providing medical benefits and modest financial assistance to those who are not served by other public assistance programs.

The medical benefits provided to GA-U clients are part of a larger systemic effort in Washington to broaden access to health insurance. This effort includes lower-income workers who receive benefits through Basic Health to children who are covered under the state’s Apple Health for Kids. Maintaining funding for GA-U reflects our state’s long term goal of expanding access to the uninsured to improve health outcomes and better manage costs.

GA-U clients range from those who suffer from physical ailments stemming from injuries to others with debilitating mental illnesses. Health issues are a primary concern for clients in the GA-U program, many of whom suffer from co-existing physical, mental, and substance abuse problems. There are 21,000 people enrolled at any given month in the GA-U program and clients can be found in every county of the state.

Importantly, GA-U fills gaps that would otherwise exist in our state’s health care infrastructure. Eligibility for other assistance programs is very limited for adults who do not have children at home, even if they are unable to work to support themselves. And federal programs do not cover adults whose disability is considered to be temporary. For these Washingtonians, GA-U provides access to much-needed medical help and the chance to avoid deep poverty and homelessness.

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