Mensch Questions Department of Aging Budget
State Senator says that he is concerned that Department of Aging budget relies on funding included in sequestration cuts.
State Sen. Bob Mensch (R-24), chairman of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee, has questioned the proposed state Department of Aging budget during Senate Appropriations Committee hearings on the proposed 2013-14 state budget.
Mensch — who represents Palmer and Forks townships — told Aging Secretary Brian Duke that he was concerned that the department’s proposed budget relied on privatization of Pennsylvania Lottery management as well as federal funds that will be reduced by sequestration.
A Lottery Private Management Agreement is expected to bring in an additional $50 million for Aging programs, but implementing the contract is opposed by the state Attorney General.
In addition, if sequestration cuts are implemented in the federal budget, Pennsylvania could lose 9 percent of its federal funding, or $136 million.
Duke said that any change in anticipated funding would require the department to look for a different funding source, or reduce spending.
"Given that both of these developments call into question a significant portion of department funding, I think the department should be drawing up contingency plans," Mensch said.
Highlights of the Department of Aging’s proposed budget include:
- $20 million for the OPTIONS Program, providing care management, home-delivered meals, protective services and in home services for individuals age 60 and older.
- $5 million for increased investment in Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs).
- $12 million for caregiver support services to assist 7,000 caregivers and families who support older, at-risk individuals in their homes.
- $227 million for PACE and PACENET to provide financial assistance to more than 300,000 older Pennsylvanians for prescription medications.
Mensch also urged the department to do more to prevent senior fraud and abuse of senior citizens.
The senator noted that scams targeting seniors have grown more sophisticated, well beyond the traditional fraud involving home repair contractors who are paid for work they never provide.
He called on the department to raise awareness of online scams they seek to extract bank account information from unsuspecting seniors.
Mensch also told the secretary he was concerned about elder abuse, whether perpetuated by family members or care workers.
"While the past year has, rightfully, seen a renewed focus on child abuse, we also need to be aware of what is happening at the other end of the age spectrum," said Mensch. "Are we doing enough as a state to protect our seniors?"
Duke said that the top legislative priority of his department is revising the Older Adults Protective Services Act.
Mensch is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will conclude three weeks of public hearings on the state budget on March 6.