If every American lived like Pennsylvania’s most famous financial advisor, their money worries would be a thing of the past.
We’re talking about Benjamin Franklin, who left an indelible imprint on the U.S. economy. Just look at whose face is on the $100 bill. It’s not called a Benjamin for nothing.

Unfortunately, a lot of Pennsylvanians are suffering Benjamin shortages.

Part of it is due to the economic gut punch from COVID-19. But even before the pandemic, a lot of people were struggling to pay their bills.

The state’s been losing manufacturing jobs for decades, and the transition to a service-based economy has been difficult. Financial success begins with getting out of debt, and that’s been difficult for millions of Pennsylvanians.

We want to help.

Ben Franklin was not one of the Founding Fathers of InCharge Debt Solutions, but our business is rooted in his financial philosophy.
“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest,” he said.

Our job is to teach you how to get you how to escape your money problems. If you invest in that knowledge, it can literally be in your best interest.

That’s because our debt management programs are designed to lower the interest rates you are paying on credit cards and other debts.

Those factors are just part of Pennsylvania’s economic puzzle.

Debt Relief Options for Pennsylvania Residents

Here’s another piece of advice from Pennsylvania’s greatest financial advisor – “Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt.”

Franklin knew how vital it is to escape debt if you want long-term security, even if it means sacrificing in the short term. And this was long before the invention of the credit card, which has led many an American into debt.

Plastic allows them to spend money they don’t have, then it requires them to pay it back at an exorbitant interest rate. While local and state governments in Pennsylvania have financial relief programs, a lot of people need a comprehensive plan to get permanent relief.

That’s where nonprofit agencies like InCharge come in. InCharge offers debt counseling services through its website, which directs people to professional counselors.

They may recommend a debt management program, where your monthly bills are consolidated and you pay a lower overall interest rate. Credit cards are usually a big part of those bills.

On average, Pennsylvanians carried $5,840 in credit card debt in 2019, according to Experian. With the average interest rate almost 18%, you’d pay $4,713 in interest if you made only minimum payments. And it would take you more than seven years to pay it off.

That would drive Ben Franklin crazy. He’d no doubt advise people to lower that figure as much as possible and live on a budget that will get them out of debt.

That would not require going without dinner, not in 2020 with all the financial assistance programs that are available. But if you want to do more than survive, if you want to get out of debt and thrive, remember Franklin’s words on knowledge. Investing in it always pays the best interest.

InCharge has the knowledge. It could be well worth your time to invest in it.

Pennsylvania Debt Resources

Given the pandemic’s carnage, it pays to remember Franklin’s words on poverty – “Having been poor is no shame, being ashamed of it is.”

There’s no shame in needing help, and Pennsylvania offers an array of financial-assistance programs. Here are some of the more popular ones:

  • Better Choice – This program makes short-term grants and loans with low interest rates. Designed as an option to payday lenders, which typically have exorbitant interest charges and other fees. 1-800-932-0661, extension 5221.
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – Cash grants for low-income residents with dependent children and their relatives, and for pregnant women.
  • PACE and PACENET – Pays for prescription medication for seniors. 1-800-225-7223.
  • Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) – Health insurance for children under 18. Available regardless of family income. 1-800-986-KIDS.
  • PARxPriceFinder.com – A website that directs Pennsylvanians to with low-cost prescription drugs in their area.
  • Military Family Relief Assistance Program – Provides grants up to $2,500 for military members and their families. 1-866-292-7201.
  • Child Care Works – Provides childcare assistance based on income guidelines. 717-657-9000.
  • Homeless Assistance Program (HAP) – Assistance if you’re struggling to pay your mortgage or rent. 1-800-692-7462.
  • Discounted telephone bills – The Lifeline 135 program provides a discount of up to $14 on monthly telephone bills. The Link Up program helps pay for the installation of a phone or purchase of cellular phone. The UTAP program pays phone bills to prevent a disconnection. 1-800-692-7380.

How to Apply for Food Stamps in Pennsylvania

Food insecurity – defined as households unable to provide every family member with consistent nutrition – was a problem before the pandemic. It has worsened all over Pennsylvania, but some places have really suffered.

An 11-county region in southwestern Pennsylvania has had a 42% increase in food insecurity since 2018. The organization Feeding America estimates more than 112,000 children in that area are not getting sufficient nutrition.

Statewide, more than 1.8 million people receive food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Benefits are based on your household income. You can apply online at https://www.compass.state.pa.us/maintenance/compass, or in person at your county assistance office. You can locate it at https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/CAO-Contact.aspx.

To apply, you must be the head of the household, the spouse of the head of household, any other responsible household member or a designated authorized representative like a friend or relative whom the applicant trusts to go food shopping and use their SNAP benefits.

Pennsylvania Debt Statistics

It’s slightly harder to get into debt in Pennsylvania than in most states. According to data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, goods and services in the state cost 2.5% less than they do on average nationwide.

Pennsylvania has the 20th highest overall cost of living. Five counties in southeastern Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware — make up about 41 percent of the state’s economy.

The city of Philadelphia has long-standing economic woes. Even before COVID-19, it had a 24% poverty rate, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The median household income of $43,744 was more than $20,000 less than the national average of $65,712.

Pennsylvania is the fifth-most populous state, with 12.7 million people. The workforce has had to evolve in the past 20 years. Manufacturing jobs have plunged from 865,000 to 575,000.

The state was No. 24 in housing affordability in 2019, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. On average, two-bedroom apartments cost $1,006 a month.

A sound budget calls for housing costs not to exceed 30% or your monthly income. In order to pay rent and utilities, a household would have to make $40,250 a year in Pennsylvania. That works out to about $19.25 an hour.

A lot of Pennsylvanian were making $0.00 an hour due to the pandemic. The unemployment rate jumped to 16.1% in April 2020. It’s slowly come down, but one in six renters are still having trouble paying household bills, according to the progressive, Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Sources

Leins, C. (2019, July 2). The 10 Most Affordable States. Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/slideshows/10-most-affordable-states

Giammarise, K. (2020, November 2) COVID-19 Pandemic Driving Increased Food Insecurity In Southwestern Pennsylvania. Retrieved from https://www.wesa.fm/post/covid-19-pandemic-driving-increased-food-insecurity-southwestern-pennsylvania

Conley, P. (2018, January 8). American money: What Ben Franklin teaches about personal finance. Retrieved from https://www.policygenius.com/blog/money-lessons-ben-franklin/

N.A. (2020, June 22) OFFICIAL REVENUE ESTIMATE FY 2020-21. Retrieved from http://www.ifo.state.pa.us/releases/378/Official-Revenue-Estimate-FY-2020-21/

Woodall, C. (2020, December 22) Evictions, food lines, students living in a car: Pa. still struggling in COVID-19 economy. Retrieved from https://www.ydr.com/story/news/2020/12/22/covid-19-pa-causing-economic-struggle-before-christmas-what-we-found/3987635001/