Department of Aging chief touts benefit of Lottery money for Northumberland County
HERNDON - State Aging Secretary Brian Duke laid out plans in a visit to Northumberland County Tuesday on how an extra $50 million in funding through privatization of the Lottery would help older Pennsylvanians.
He told some 100 people at the Lower Northumberland County Senior Action Center, including center members, county officials and local dignitaries, how $21 million would be used to help keep older adults in their homes and how another $20 million would be used for care management.
What he didn't mention is that the $34 billion contract to have British company Camelot Global Services Pa. manage the Lottery was rejected on Feb. 18 by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane on grounds it violates the state constitution, and that Gov. Tom Corbett has yet to publicly state what he'll do next.
Duke, asked further about the situation by a reporter after his 40-minute address, was optimistic that, one way or another, there would be more funding for his department.
"I know that the governor is exploring his options, and if it doesn't go through with Camelot, we will explore other remedies to make it happen," he said.
The thought of more funding pleased those in attendance.
"Every little bit helps," said member Daisy Lahr, of Sunbury RD, after Duke's speech. "There are great programs here, but you always need funds to keep them going."
Pat Rumberger, director of the Northumberland County Area Agency on Aging, said she was thrilled to have her "boss" in the county to address "what we hope will be some new funding needed for older Pennsylvanians."
Another immediate concern for the Department of Aging is less federal funding because of the automatic cuts from sequestration, which went into effect Friday. Duke said he'd learn more upon his return to Harrisburg after his morning in Herndon.
"I'm literally waiting for a phone call from Washington as to what the cuts will be," he told the crowd, saying 5 percent is expected, down from what the thought would be 9 percent on Friday.
Help from the Lottery
Duke made the Herndon center his Northumberland County stop on a weeks-long statewide tour to detail how Lottery money is helping senior citizens and the department's four-year strategic plan.
"We want to open up the dialogue on what matters are important to all of you," he said.
Duke, former director of the Bucks County Area Agency on Aging, said Pennsylvania has the nation's fourth highest population of residents over age 60, or the fourth "grayest," as he put it.
The Department of Aging benefits greatly from the Lottery, to the tune of $498 million in its budget, even without privatizing it, Duke said. Northumberland County gets $11.4 million, including $3 million for PACE, which helps pay for prescription medicines. Shared-ride programs gets about $681,000, he said.
On the strategic plan the agency created in 2012, Duke said there are four goals: improve access to care for older individuals at the right time, setting and intensity; empower older individuals to remain in the setting of their choice by serving as a catalyst in developing communities in which to age and live well; direct older individuals to the supports necessary to maximize their health and well-being; and the fourth - "a mirror goal for us," Duke said - to revitalize and redesign aging services to further enhance the lives of older individuals.
In order to accomplish these goals, Duke said the department has been working on a "sound and reliable financial plan" and making responsible spending choices.
Where $50M would go
Even so, it's not enough money, prompting the governor's privatization plan for the $3.5 billion lottery system, Duke said.
Corbett got an extension from Camelot until mid-March on keeping the contract terms in place - the company says it will return $34 billion in profit over the length of the 20-year deal - while he reviews his options. There has not yet been an appeal of Kane's decision.
But Camelot's $50 million security deposit has been figured into the governor's budget proposal, and Duke broke down how Aging would use the money: $21 million for the Aging Waiver program to expand home and community-based services so that older adults can continue to live in their homes; $20 million for OPTIONS, which provides assessment, care management and in-home services through Area Agencies on Aging; $2 million for services for people with disabilities turning 60 and shifting into aging programs; $5 million for Area Agencies on Aging; and $2 million for a new competitive grant program that Duke said would allow senior action centers to "share in the wealth" with new equipment or building improvements.
Department press secretary Christine Reese, contacted in Harrisburg Tuesday, spoke about the Camelot funding as if it were expected, and said the $50 million is a "base."
"If profits are better with Camelot, the amount will increase," she said.
Questions for Duke
Increased funding for the centers was on the mind of James Spittle, president of the center, when he offered his comments to Duke.
"Funding for the centers has not increased in six years," he said, "but there were an increase in Pennsylvania Lottery profits each year. Why are we not seeing the money?"
"Profits only hit projected targets two out of six years," Duke replied. "Funding is based on an allocation formula using past census numbers, which are outdated." He said the department is working with the Legislature to change how allocations are made.
In Northumberland County, three senior action centers, Dewart, Riverside and Elysburg, had to close due to budget constraints at the end of 2012, a decision made by county commissioners. Elysburg received a last-minute reprieve, and remains open three days a week.
Also present Tuesday were state Rep. Lynda Schlegel-Culver (R-108); Harold Hurst, representing state Rep. Kurt Masser (R-107); and county commissioners.