The AIDS Law Project is happy to share this news. We are proud to work with State Sen. Vincent Hughes, State Rep. Ben Waxman, and State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta to remove the last reference to HIV in the Pennsylvania criminal code.
PHILADELPHIA (Feb. 28, 2024) – Today, on HIV is Not a Crime Awareness Day, State Sen. Vincent Hughes, State Rep. Ben Waxman, and State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta are circulating co-sponsorship memos for a bill that would remove Pennsylvania’s felony penalty for HIV-related prostitution. (Sen. Hughes memo; Rep Waxman & Kenyatta memo)
HIV criminalization does not make anyone safer, but reinforces stigma and undermines public health goals. The three legislators, known for their advocacy on behalf of people living with HIV, intend to remove this stigmatizing law from the criminal code.
The bill would ensure that Pennsylvania criminal law does not discriminate against people living with HIV and could prevent the state from being subjected to costly litigation. On Feb. 15, 2024, the Department of Justice filed suit against the State of Tennessee and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by enforcing the state’s law which similarly enhances the penalties for people living with HIV who are charged with prostitution.
Removing the felony charge removes the last relic of HIV criminalization laws in Pennsylvania, one of nine states still subjecting people living with HIV to harsher penalties if charged with prostitution. In recent years other states including Georgia, Nevada, and California have modernized or repealed their prostitution laws.
HIV criminalization laws began to appear across the nation more than 30 years ago, and advocates have been pushing for reform ever since.
“Criminalizing HIV with a sentencing enhancement is not a public health solution to ending the HIV epidemic,” said Waheedah Shabazz-El, a woman living with HIV who is a longtime activist in issues relating to HIV and women and a board member of the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania.
A September 2023 poll from Susquehanna Polling and Research shows that a majority of Pennsylvanians believe that the state’s HIV laws should be updated to reflect modern science. According to the poll, 76% of Pennsylvanians believe that current HIV laws should be modernized and updated. And 79% believe that people living with HIV should receive the health and treatment they need, rather than face criminal charges that discriminate and discourage proper testing, treatment, and disclosure.
The AIDS Law Project provides free legal services to residents of Pennsylvania or Southern New Jersey who are living with HIV or vulnerable to acquiring HIV. Our office is open Monday-Friday. All calls to our office are answered live during intake hours (9:30 – 1 p.m.) and referred to an intake advocate for a call back on the same business day. Calls after intake hours are returned the next business day. Callers may reach us at 215-587-9377 or 267-520-0024. Requests for assistance may also be made online at https://www.aidslawpa.org/on-line-intake.
We will respond to online requests within eight business hours. Clients are seen by appointment in our office. Walk-ins are welcome on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and will be seen as staff availability permits.
Need Legal Help?
Call 215 587-9377 or 267-520-0024, Mon. – Fri., 9 – 5. Bilingual staff available. We also make home and hospital visits. Submit an on-line Intake Form and we will contact you within 8 business hours.
- The pandemic moratorium on Medicaid terminations ends April 1, 2023. Pandemic-related benefits for the last three years have allowed most Medical Assistance recipients to maintain their MA regardless of whether they cooperated with eligibility redeterminations, had income or resources over the limit, or paid MAWD premiums. https://www.dhs.pa.gov/PHE/Pages/default.aspx The most helpful, proactive step a beneficiary can take is to call the DHS Customer Service Center (877-395-8930, in Philadelphia 215-560-7226) to confirm their contact information and ask for their renewal date
- Renewals will take place over 12 months, and no one will be disenrolled without having a chance to complete a renewal.
- Generally, ongoing eligibility will be reviewed during regular annual renewal. Beginning March 2023, MA recipients sent renewal packets can be terminated for non-renewal, incomplete renewal, or ineligibility.
- Note that April renewal packets are sent in March, so clients who get MA renewal packets now risk losing benefits if they do not complete the renewal.
- If clients are unsure of their renewal date, they can check COMPASS or call the DHS Customer Service Center
(1-877-395-8930, in Philadelphia 215-560-7226).
- MAWD premiums unpaid during the pandemic will be forgiven. However, beginning in April, MAWD beneficiaries can be terminated for non-payment of premiums.
- The pandemic SNAP Emergency Allotments ended in February 2023. Starting March 2023, recipients will only get their “regular” SNAP payment loaded to their EBT card in the first half of the month.There will be no second payment later in the month.Without the extra SNAP, the benefit amount is based on the recipient’s income and expenses. To ensure clients are receiving all the SNAP they are eligible for, make sure DHS has the current income for everyone in the household and up-to-date information on expenses and allowable deductions (childcare, medical expenses, rent/mortgage, utility bills). Unlike Social Security benefits, SNAP has no automatic annual cost of living increase. That means for people with Social Security benefits (whether SSI, SSDI, or retirement), their monthly check increased but their SNAP likely decreased.https://www.dhs.pa.gov/Services/Assistance/Pages/SNAP-CARES-Act.aspx
- PHA will be accepting Section 8 voucher applications for two weeks starting at 6 a.m. on Monday Jan. 23rd and ending at 5:59 p.m. on Sunday Feb. 5th. The housing voucher application will be available online at http://www.pha.phila.gov/. People can also apply over the phone by calling a hotline (215-999-3102) for the program, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
- The Pennsylvania Department of Human Service announced that October 28th will be the last day for households to submit applications for assistance through the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) This is a temporary program for renters and homeowners who need help paying their water bill. The grants are for a maximum of $2500 per household and do not have to be paid back. Apply here.
- Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) resumed shutoffs on July 20. Customers can get help filling out paperwork and ask questions about options like the Tiered Assistance Program (TAP), which can provide more affordable monthly bills based on household income and other factors. TAP can also help customers eliminate debt from old bills and prevent shutoffs. Clinics take place on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m and you can sign up here
- Applications for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) are available. LIHEAP helps families living on low incomes pay their heating bills in the form of a cash grant, which does not need to be repaid. Households in immediate danger of losing heat can also qualify for crisis grants. The cash grant is a one-time payment sent directly to the utility company/fuel provider to be credited on your bill. These grants range from $500 to $1,500 based on household size, income, and fuel type. For details, see the LIHEAP FAQ (1/6/22)
- Applications for Low-Income Household Water Assistance (LIHWAP) are now available. LIHWAP is an emergency grant of up to $2,500 to help low-income families pay overdue water bills. The grant does not have to be repaid. Eligible families rent or own their own home; have an overdue water bill; and meet income guidelines (below 150% of the federal poverty level). For details, see the LIHWAP FAQ (1/6/22)
- Tenants Can Request a ZOOM hearing in Philadelphia Landlord Tenant Court. Tenants who are struggling to appear in person may request to appear by zoom or by phone. Failure to appear can result in a loss and an eviction ordered entered. Tenants should email Kimberly.Oliver@courts.phila.gov with the LT# in the subject line, or call 215 686-2910 to request a remote hearing by zoom or phone. Requests will be granted. A reason for the request is not required. For details, see Zoom Protocols (1/6/22)
- REGISTER TO VOTE BY MONDAY, OCTOBER 18 The deadline to vote in Pennsylvania’s Nov. 2 general election is Oct. 18. The deadline to apply for a mail-in or absentee ballot is Oct. 26. To make you voice and vote count, return your ballot by Nov 2 — or vote in person. For more details, see project home.org (10/10/21)
- Additional federal funding for rental assistance is on its way. Tenants in need of financial help should apply for rental assistance in their county ASAP. Philadelphia renters can apply at for assistance here and other Pennsylvania tenants can visit the state Emergency Rental Assistance Page for information on how to apply in their county. See also: bit.ly
- New tenant protections in Philadelphia. Tenants who have completed Phase 4 rental assistance applications cannot be locked out until 90 days after their landlord received the last rental assistance payment. (8/10/21) View the Details of the August 9th order.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended a federal moratorium on evictions for 60 days for counties experiencing substantial and high risk of community transmission of Covid-19. Thirty of PA’s 67 counties and 20 of NJ’s 21 counties currently qualify. In the 5 PA county region near Philadelphia, only Chester County is not currently eligible. (8/4/21) Details
- Low-income PECO and PGW customers have until September 30, 2021 to get into a 5 year payment plan for past due utility bills. To apply, call PECO at 1-800-494-4000 and PGW at 215 235-1777. (7/28/21) Details.
- Starting July 15, families with children could qualify for the expanded Child Tax Credit, which will provide up to $3,600 per child. Families can get $250 to $300 a month per child from July 2021 through December 2021. (7/26/21). Details
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 residential eviction moratorium set to expire June 30 is now extended through July 31, 2021. This is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium. (6/29/21) Details
- CDC’s COVID-19 residential eviction moratorium set to expire June 30 is expected to be extended by another month.The national ban on residential evictions was first implemented last September and was extended in March until June 30. (6/23/21) Details
- Discounts on internet service and electronic devices available for eligible families. The Emergency BroadBand Benefit (EBB) administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides a discount up to $50 off a monthly internet bill and a one-time discount up to $100 for an electronic device. Applications for the EBB opened last week and will end once the funds are exhausted or six months after the federal Department of Health and Human Services declares the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. (5/15/21) Details
- PA Unemployment Compensation offers workshops on new system. Workshops in English and Spanish are scheduled for the weeks of May 10 – June 14. Topics include: How to Login; Payment Information; Status Updates; Appeals; Fact-Finding; and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). (5/10/21). Details.
- COVID-19 Reentry Payment Program. The City of Philadelphia Office of Reentry Partnerships is offering $500 for reentry support to people released from the Philadelphia Department of Prisons since 3/1/2020. For more information go to www.phila.gov/2021-03-31-covid-reentry-payment-program.
- Deadline to file taxes to receive 3rd stimulus payment is May 17, 2021. If you have not received yours, this flyer has instructions on how to file your taxes this year and get all of money you and your family are owed. (March 25, 2021)
- Centers for Disease Control eviction moratorium has been extended through June 30, 2021. Moratorium applies to tenants: expecting an income in 2021 <$198,000 for couples, $99,000 for individuals; seeking government assistance to make their rental payments; unable to pay rent because of COVID-19 hardships; and likely to become homeless if they are evicted. (3/29/21) Details.
- Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designated for Venezuela. TPS is a form of temporary immigration relief available to people from specific countries designated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The TPS designation for Venezuela is effective March 9, 2021 through September 9, 2022. Venezuelan nationals, who desire TPS, must apply within the 180 registration period that ends on September 5, 2021. (3/8/21). Details
- DEADLINE FOR NEW UC PROGRAM: Unemployed workers previously self-employed and currently collecting traditional UC can now apply for the new Mixed Earners Unemployment Compensation (MEUC) program. MEUC provides $100 in extra benefits. Applications must be submitted online by 3/12/2021. (2/22/21) Details
- SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps) are temporarily available for qualifying college students. This eligibility will remain in place until 30 days after the COVID public health emergency ends. (2/8/21) Details
- Individuals owed money from the IRS for missing stimulus payments can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 tax return. This is important for non-filers, who neither filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019, nor used the IRS Non-Filers Tool to claim their stimulus payments. (2/8/21) Details
- Pennsylvania Dept. of Labor and Industry issues updates on pandemic-related unemployment compensation programs. Scheduled to expire at the end of December 2020, these programs are now resumed as part of the federal CARES Act extensions. (2/1/21) Details
- Pennsylvanians experiencing homelessness now eligible for free photo ID from PENNDOT. (1/6/21) www.media.pa.gov
- The filing period for Liberians to apply for a green card under the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (LRIF) has been extended from one year to two years. Applications under LRIF must be received at USCIS by December 20, 2021. Click here for more information.
- The 2020 LIHEAP program is open and accepting applications. LIHEAP is a federal program that provides financial heating assistance to qualified households. For more information
- This holiday season, please consider digging deeper than usual. For each gift of $250 or more, we will send you a snazzy AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania T-shirt. Please visit our donation page.
- Philadelphia county residential eviction lockouts are suspended through December 31, 2020.
- HIV drug patients’ privacy violated by Gilead, lawsuit claims 5/22/2020 (Philadelphia Inquirer)
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