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Local aging offices get more funds

The state is updating its formula on federal funding for county area agencies on aging and as a result, Carbon County is expected to receive $373,177 over a several year period as a result.

The Pennsylvania Department of Aging announced last week that in compliance with federal requirements, it would be updating its formula for how Pennsylvania distributes federal funds authorized by the Older Americans Act, among the 52 Area Agencies on Aging that serve the commonwealth.

Susan Zeigler, administrator for the Carbon County Area Agency on Aging, said her agency is one of the county that are expecting an increase in funding. The funding represents an increase of $142,860 through the reallocations.

“These funds are used to provide Older Americans Act services,” she said. “We can use the funds for our Senior Center programs, to assist families in paying for Adult Daycare services, Protective Services, In Home Services, Ombudsman Services and other supportive services we offer to an older adult.

“We also received additional funding for our Caregiver Support program,” she noted.

The Caregiver Support program helps a caregiver with identifying areas of need and providing a financial reimbursement for services and/or supplies purchased.

“This funding will also provide the opportunity to provide more Health and Wellness programs. These programs provide education on the Older Adults Chronic Health conditions, Healthy Steps, etc.,” Zeigler said. “The additional funds will assist us in meeting some of our four-year plan goals.”

The Intrastate Funding Formula, which was last updated a decade ago, is the formula used to distribution federal funding throughout the aging agencies.

Monroe funding

“The formula for AAA needed to be looked at and revised because it is at least 10 years old and the demographics have dramatically changed in Monroe County,” said Mary Claire Megargle, Director of AAA Monroe County.

Megargle said the older adult population living alone in Monroe has increased from 10 years ago, and Monroe County will benefit from the new formula.

“It isn’t money that seniors can actually see, but what the increase does is allow AAA Monroe County to provide more services to seniors,” Megargle said.

The Census plays a part.

“One crucial factor that played into Monroe County receiving more money was the response to the Census in Monroe County,” Megargle said.

The federal government uses the answers from the Census in calculating the amount of financial help a county receives on information recorded when you fill out the Census form.

“Using answers from the Census, the Federal Government can look at the ages of the population, the older adults in minority populations, people living in rural areas, as well as those living in poverty and living alone,” the director said.

Monroe County is set to receive a total of $857,539, which represents a proposed gain of $452,058.

“In the 10 years since this formula has been updated, Pennsylvania’s older adult population has experienced growth and demographic changes. These changes need to be incorporated in how the department calculates the distribution of federal funds for aging services to the AAAs,” said Aging Sec. Robert Torres. “We undertook a thoughtful, monthslong process, during which we looked not only at age as a factor of need, but also considered other factors such as older adults in minority populations, rural populations, living in poverty and living alone.”

“We undertook a thoughtful monthslong process. During that time, we not only looked at age as a factor of need but also considered other factors such as older adults in minority populations, rural populations, living in poverty and living alone,” Torres said.

Schuylkill County

The Schuylkill County Office of Senior Services is proposed to receive $170,360 more in federal money due to a change in a formula used to allocate funds to local Area Agency on Aging offices.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” DeAnna Orlowsky, executive administrator of the Schuylkill County Office of Senior Services said

Orlowsky said the amount is spread over a nine-year period. She said the normal Department of Aging Block Grant allocation is $5.5 million.

The money distributed by the model goes to six service areas: supportive services, congregate meal services, home delivered meal services, health promotion services, caregiver services, and ombudsman and protective services. The former formula had examined five factors using recent census data: people age 60 to 74, people age 75 plus, age 60 plus who are minority, age 60 plus in rural setting and 60 plus living in poverty.

Changes to the formula include modifying the first factor to decrease the overall emphasis on age. A new factor was added to include those 60-plus who live alone. Information about the program says this was added “because this is a noted indicator of greatest social need and presents a risk of social isolation.”

Orlowsky said she believes that change helped the county.

“A lot of our older adults live alone in this county,” she said.

Orlowsky said more services have been needed because of the pandemic.

“Over the past year, our meals program has increased significantly due to COVID,” she said.

For example, from fiscal quarter July 2020 through December 2020 compared to July 2019 to December 2019 about 4,000 more in home meals were provided to those eligible. Congregate meals increased by 6,000 during the same time period.

Lehigh County will receive $1,788,287, an increase of $511,240, while Northampton County will $1,028,330, an increase of $134,649.

The new formula is expected to shift approximately $8.8 million throughout the 52 agencies.

Thirty-four counties will see a gradual increase over the next few years, while 18 larger counties, like Philadelphia, will see a decrease in funding.

The plan is expected to be finalized by July 1.

Reporters Amy Marchiano and Amy Leap contributed to this report.