The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

February 26, 2013

Readers' Forum 2-26 | Agency cuts criticized, administrator responds

— As a recently retired employee of the Cambria County Area Agency on Aging, I feel compelled to respond to recent cutbacks in services. These cutbacks include the closing of a senior center, changes in transportation and changes in the home-delivered meals program and other vital in-home services offered to older adults in Cambria County.

These changes ordered by the agency administrator were made reportedly due to “lack of funding.” As a former supervisor in the agency, I can tell you that cutbacks in programs that provide support and services to older adults are being made despite the fact that the agency carries a surplus of more than $1 million. (The agency director recently admitted this in a WJAC-TV news interview.)

This million-dollar surplus, held in a reserve fund, is taxpayers’ money that is supposed to be used by agencies across the state to provide vital services to the above-60 population.

To withhold, decrease or deny services to deserving seniors under these circumstances is a vile, reprehensible act that should outrage seniors and taxpayers of this county. This is taxpayer money earmarked specifically for senior programs.

Vulnerable, needy, struggling older adults are being shortchanged and misled by this ridiculous injustice, and taxpayers are being denied what is rightfully theirs.

There needs to be a public outcry demanding answers and accountability.

Contact the Cambria County Area Agency on Aging director at 539-5595 and demand answers.

Older adults deserve an explanation.

Jim Salvia

Johnstown

Editor’s note: We asked the Area Agency on Aging for response, which follows.

Realignment targets those most in need

With the goal of serving more needy older adults, the Cambria County Area Agency on Aging is realigning expenses and pursing efficiencies to target funding to those most in need. The current year’s budget of $5.7 million represents a decrease of $330,000 from previous years.

The financial trend of declining revenues, coupled with increasing expenses, is projected to continue and necessitates tapping into the agency’s reserves, this year, to serve those in need. Only by implementing cost-containment strategies, now, to realign expenses with income, can the agency truly fulfill its mission of serving the neediest and most vulnerable older adults for years to come.

By eliminating duplicate services and routes as mandated by PennDOT, transportation opportunities will be expanded with more frequent runs, especially in rural areas. The agency expanded  transportation sponsorship by fully paying the co-pay for Johnstown riders, 65 and older, so they need not reach into their own pockets for the required Shared Ride 15 percent co-payment. The agency continues to fund this co-pay for those 65 and older and also for seniors, age 60-64, traveling to and from senior centers.

Home-delivered meal recipients continue to receive five meals per week. Delivery days were reduced from four to three because of cost increases for food, fuel and staff. The agency continues to provide congregate meals at nine senior centers, with eight centers fully funded by the agency, two within close proximity of Nanty Glo.

The many other services provided by the agency are available as needed.

Should you know of an elder in need, please notify the agency at 539-5595. No needy senior who contacts the agency is going without services.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

M. Veil Griffith, Ed.D.

Administrator

Cambria County Area Agency on Aging

Johnstown

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