The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 7, 2014

Surprise cash for Cambria

EBENSBURG — Cambria County is receiving an unanticipated windfall from the state Department of Aging, money which will benefit the aging in a number of ways, officials said Tuesday.

The $340,000 must be spent by June 30 and comes with a number of restrictions. However. It will be spent with the goal of providing a degree of comfort and convenience within homes of the elderly, said M. Veil Griffith, administrator of the countywide aging program.

“Senior centers are not an approved cost center,” Griffith said.

But the money will be spent for needs such as emergency/snowy weather boxes, bathroom handrails or bars and similar improvements.

The hope it that funding can be stretched to include investigations into allegations where elderly people may be exploited or neglected, she said.

State guidelines restrict use of the money to service initiatives. In this case, some of the funds will be used for a new idea to the county, said  President Commissioner  Douglas Lengenfelder.

“The boxes will include emergency meals which are not perishable, a warm blanket. It’s emergency rations,” he said of the one-time delivery.

Bids were opened at the court-house on Tuesday for the

850 snowy weather boxes that will be distributed within weeks, Griffith said.

Nutrition Inc., which manages the county’s senior centers, was the only bidder for the contract. The company submitted a price of $81 per box for a total cost of $67,850.

The items will be sufficient to carry a senior through a span of two to four days in the event of severe weather or some other emergency, Griffith said.

There will be four shelf-stable meals, cold cereal, canned tuna, peanut butter, canned fruit and juice, granola bars and water.

The funding is allowing the Cambria Area Agency on Aging to expand the package to include a heavy blanket, flashlight with the phone number of the agency, batteries, slippers and two rolls of toilet paper.

“They are items that would tide a person over for a few days,” Griffith said. “I think it will give an elderly person a sense of comfort.”

Nutrition Inc. already has conducted a similar program in a number of western Pennsylvania counties, making Griffith confident it is one that the company can pull together in a short time.

“They should have them out to the people by Jan. 24,” she said.

The boxes are not just for those who fall below state income guidelines, but recipients of the more permanent planned improvements must fall within the lower income rates.

The county commissioners must approve the contract with Nutrition Inc.

The $270,000 remaining from the one-time windfall will allow some improvements to homes of the elderly, Lengenfelder said.

“We want to serve older adults who are in need with things like handrails and grab bars – bathing needs,” Griffith said.

Applications and more information for the safety improvements can be made by contacting Griffith’s Johnstown office.

As funding allows, Griffith hopes to be able to use some of the money to fund investigations into reports of elder abuse in the county, be it physical or financial, and neglect, be it self-neglect or by recipients.

“We have professional investigators. We want to step in and help,” she said.

 

Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County courthouse for The Tribune Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/kathymellotttd.

 

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