Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pennsylvania Budget Impasse Hurting Seniors

Andrea Sears, Public News Service

Without a state budget, nutrition programs like Meals on Wheels for Pennsylvania seniors are running out of money. Credit: U.S. Aair Force.
Without a state budget, nutrition programs like Meals on Wheels for Pennsylvania seniors are running out of money. Credit: U.S. Aair Force.
HARRISBURG, Pa. – The four-month budget impasse in Harrisburg is hitting services for seniors particularly hard. In some counties, state funds account for 80 percent or more of the budget for human services.

Ray Landis, director of advocacy for AARP Pennsylvania, says vital care for seniors is already being, and may stop completely.

"We are facing reductions in Meals on Wheels, closing and reduced hours at adult day centers," he says. "Those providing home-care services are starting to cut back on hours."

Landis says the meals many seniors receive through state-funded programs are their primary source of nutrition.

According to Landis, county human service agencies are doing all they can to keep aid going to the most vulnerable, including reaching out to families to take care of needs that can no longer be addressed as funds dry up.

"But some of these folks don't have families," he says. "It's a very dire situation for many individuals, and we're just starting to see the edge of it right now. It could become much worse, very quickly."

Some counties have already used up their reserves and are borrowing money, laying off staff and may still have to close senior centers.

AARP is among the groups urging the governor and state lawmakers to resolve the impasse as quickly as possible. Landis says there is more at stake than disagreements over political philosophy.

"We've got to look beyond that, and look to see how individuals are being impacted," he says. "We are trying to ensure that both the administration and general assembly recognizes this."

For some older Pennsylvanians, Landis says, the services they are in danger of losing are becoming a matter of life or death.

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