Cash Assistance

Diversion and Moving to Independence

The Department of Human Services is dedicated to helping Pennsylvania's low-income families become independent through the Diversion program. Diversion is a way for families to choose short-term help rather than long-term ongoing cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

For example, maybe you recently lost your job, or your employer cut your hours. You cannot pay all your bills now, but in a couple of months, you expect to start a new job that can support your family or you expect to work full-time hours again. If you are eligible, Diversion can meet your short-term needs.

Diversion is a one-time lump sum payment. The payment is dependent upon your need, with the maximum payment set at three times the Family Size Allowance (FSA).

To receive a Diversion payment, you first must be eligible for ongoing TANF benefits and then must meet all the Diversion requirements. You will not be eligible for Diversion if the Diversion payment cannot cover your short-term need.

With a Diversion payment, your family should not have any need for ongoing TANF benefits. You can only receive Diversion payment once in a 12-month period.

How to Apply

You can apply for Diversion by: 

  • Completing an online COMPASS application for cash benefits;
  • Filing an application at your local county assistance office; or
  • Downloading an application form (below) and returning it to your local county assistance office. 

Application for cash assistance, SNAP and Medical Assistance Benefits  |  Solicitud para recibir beneficios (Version Española)

  • If you need help to fill out the application form or need more information about benefits, trained workers at your county assistance office can help you.

Are You Eligible?

When you apply for cash assistance, the county assistance office will consider you and your family for Diversion if you: 

  • Meet all TANF non-financial and income/resource requirements in the month of application or the following month. (This means you must be eligible for ongoing TANF benefits.);
  • Are employed or have earned income within 90 days of application;
  • Have a verified financial need(s). (A one-time Diversion payment of either one, two or three months of the FSA must cover all your short-term needs until your income starts again.); and
  • Expect income that will support your family and will arrive within three months. 

Before the county assistance office decides if you are eligible for a Diversion payment, your caseworker will look at services and other benefits to help support your family such as Emergency Shelter Allowance (ESA), SNAP or home heating assistance through LIHEAP. These services and benefits may be able to cover part of your short-term need and make it possible for a Diversion payment to cover the rest of the need.