Pennsylvania is grappling with the challenge of managing a growing senior population amidst a declining working-age population, a trend that has become increasingly complex in recent years. The state must now manage an increased demand for services and how best to provide them. Governor Josh Shapiro’s proposed budget includes increased funding to support a 10-year master plan being developed by the Department of Aging to strengthen its Area Agencies on Aging and keep costs down.
Governor Proposes Increased Funding to Address Aging Population
The governor’s proposed budget includes additional funding to support a 10-year master plan being developed by the Department of Aging. Acting Secretary Jason Kavulich says that these investments come at a high cost, but they ensure that older residents get to live and age in their homes and communities safely, with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Expanded Funding Aims to Keep Seniors Living in Their Homes
Additional lottery funding has been requested for a $10 million increase in the Area Agency on Aging network and $1 million in senior center grants. This funding will help reduce waiting lists for services included in the department’s OPTIONS Program, increase support for senior community centers, and assist adults with staying in their homes. The department is looking at new ways of doing things, such as providing a $10,000 “modification investment” in a person’s home to refit the bathroom, which would prevent them from having to go to a nursing home.
Concerns Raised About Proposed Timeline for Funding Increases
Rep. James Struzzi, R-Indiana, expressed concern that the proposed provisions would not take effect until July 2024 and asked Kavulich to work with the administration to expedite the process. Kavulich responded that they would gladly be a part of any conversation that “helps move the needle forward quicker.”
Proposed Budget Addresses Food Security and Senior Centers
The proposed budget addresses food security with an increase in the minimum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit. Eligible seniors’ minimum benefit would increase from $23 to $35, which Kavulich said is critical given inflation, the rising cost of groceries, and SNAP emergency allotments that ended in February. The state’s 517 senior centers receive $7 million worth of grant requests annually for a program that is currently funded at $2 million.
Pharmaceutical Assistance for Elderly Moratorium to Expire
The Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly (PACE) moratorium is set to expire in December. PACE Director Tom Snedden said that the expiry of the moratorium would result in half of the 10,000 people who maintain their prescription drug benefits despite disqualifying increases to their income from Social Security cost of living adjustments losing their coverage entirely, and the other half would move from PACE to PACENET. He said that 20,000 people would be impacted by the 8.7% Social Security cost of living adjustment next year, and additional legislation would be required for further extensions.
Department of Aging Explores Innovative Ideas to Support Aging Population
The Department of Aging is exploring innovative ideas under their OPTIONS and SHARE programs, such as retirement communities and ECHO cottages, which are small, separate residences temporarily placed on the property of a friend or relative’s home.