AFTER OPENING a letter from the state Department of Public Welfare on Wednesday afternoon, Alexander Fink was left wondering how he'd pay for even the simplest of necessities next month.

The Port Richmond man and more than 35,000 other Philadelphians are being cut off from the state-funded general-assistance public-welfare program, which is being terminated July 31 as part of Gov. Corbett's austere budget.

"With that cash, you pay for your basic needs, your toiletries, a bill — I'm on lifeline for my telephone company, and my co-pays for my prescriptions," said Fink, who is disabled. "I get my haircut, I have to pay the phone bill, I need soap, shampoo, toothpaste — stuff everybody needs."

Fink, 61, said he's received general assistance since doctors found cancerous tumors in his intestine about seven years ago. He also has glaucoma, had a gland in his neck removed and had surgery to remove part of his bowel. He takes several prescription medications and said that without the welfare, he's unsure how he'll cover his multiple co-pays.

The general-assistance program serves about 61,000 Pennsylvanians who are temporarily or permanently disabled and meet certain criteria, said Anne Bale, a Department of Public Welfare spokeswoman.

General-assistance recipients receive monthly checks for about $200, which collectively consume roughly $150 million of the state's annual budget, according to Bale.

"It is possible that people who have lost the general-assistance cash benefit may now qualify for another program," Bale said, referring to the federally funded Supplemental Security Program and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund.

Wednesday's letter was a surprise to some recipients, including Fink. Advocates for the poor had complained that the state didn't provide recipients proper notice that their benefits would end.

"I didn't even see anything on the news about it or anything — and I always watch the news," he said.

Fink said he hopes to start getting Social Security payments next year, but said he doesn't know what he'll do when his general-assistance money runs out at the end of the month.

"That's what I'm wondering," he said. "I'm sure everybody else who got those notices today is gonna be wondering that, too." n

Contact Phillip Lucas at 215-854-5914, lucasp@phillynews.com or read his blog at phillyconfidential.com.