Pennsylvania's budget impasse has now been going for about two and a half months, and it's starting to impact some of the state's most vulnerable residents.
Allegheny County’s Human Services Department’s Area Agency on Aging (AAA) said this is coming at a time when demand for services is rising.
AAA has a proposed budget of $51 million, but that depends on state lawmakers and the governor resolving their budget dispute.
State Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne said that Pennsylvania has almost 2.7 million residents over the age of 60, or 21.3 percent of the total population. This percentage ranks fourth in the country of residents over age 60, she said, and added that by the year 2020, 26.2 percent of Pennsylvania residents will 60 years or older; that's one in four residents.
“These demographic features underscore that there will be an increase in the need and demand for fiscal health and social supports to ensure a sound quality of life for older Pennsylvanians,” Osborne said.
She said that the Department of Aging receives 77 percent of its funding from the Pennsylvania Lottery ($48.8 million) and that funding will need to increase to meet heightened demand for health care.
“We have observed that funding has not, and will not, keep pace with these increasing demands,” Osborne said. “We cannot, therefore, maintain the status quo.”
Osborne encouraged feedback from seniors on how to improve their daily lives; she spoke Wednesday at a public hearing on the issue on Pittsburgh's South Side.
“Each of you have a stake in this,” she said.
Osborne said seniors sometimes struggle to pay for food, medicine and taxes, something that “simply should not happen” in Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania seniors have spent their whole lives working hard to provide for their families, build our communities, and protect our country in times of crisis,” she said. “We are dedicated, therefore, to ensure our older Pennsylvania residents remain active, engaged, and protected from all forms of abuse and neglect.”
This story was corrected in order to more accurately represent the statements of Sec. Osborne who did not refer to the ongoing budget negotiations as being at an impasse, nor did she define the size of the Area Agency on Aging budget.