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Lottery losers: Despite increase in lottery revenue, PA seniors get fewer community services - Kathleen Kane
Created on Saturday, 23 February 2013 08:32 Last Updated on Saturday, 23 February 2013 08:59 Published on Monday, 25 February 2013 07:00 Written by Public Source Hits: 981
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County officials said they make do, even as the need for services grows.
“We have tried to take whatever funding we have and spread it over as many consumers as we can,” said Tim Landrin, director of home- and community-based long-term care at the Southwestern Pennsylvania aging agencies.
His agency, which receives 75 to 80 percent of its funds from the lottery, saw funding decrease by more than $627,000 between 2008 and 2011.
Allegheny County’s aging agencies gets about half its funding from the lottery. From 2008 to 2011, the agency’s support went down by $3.7 million.
“We set guidelines for who we can more immediately serve,” said Phan-Gruber. “And those who have fewer functional needs are put on a waiting list.”
'To attract the best bids'
In 2012, when lottery profits topped $1 billion, county agencies did receive more money, $287 million, up from $214 million the year before. But by then, there had been many county-level cuts.
Corbett’s administration was already putting together a private management agreement for the lottery and inviting bids. And the Pennsylvania Senate was drafting requirements for a private company to run the lottery.
“It’s important to do this when a public asset is doing well in order to attract the best bids,” explained Elizabeth Stelle, a policy analyst with the Commonwealth Foundation, a Pennsylvania think-tank and research group that supports free-market policies. Stelle wrote the foundation's Jan. 3 report, which pointed to private management as a way to reduce the long waiting lists for senior services.
PA Governer Tom Corbett
“Regardless of what’s causing the waiting lists, we do know that more revenue means more seniors can get services,” she said. “There will be additional revenues under a private management agreement.”
The contract with Camelot Global Services, which Kane deemed illegal, guaranteed certain profits for Pennsylvania’s lottery, despite past difficulties in predicting lottery revenues.
In four of the past seven years, estimates of lottery sales have fallen short of actual sales by as much as six percent, according to a 2012 Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report.
Corbett’s office did not return phone calls seeking comment, instead referring questions to the state’s Department of Aging.
Secretary of Aging Brian Duke told the state Senate, “The older Pennsylvanians we serve are usually of limited economic means, but are not receiving public assistance from Medicaid or other forms of assistance through the Department of Public Welfare.”
Public Welfare, however, is precisely the agency distributing lottery funds to nursing homes instead of county agencies.
Duke did not respond to calls for comment, but department spokeswoman Christina Reese said there were other reasons for the longer waiting lists.
“The need is growing within the elderly population,” she said. “There has also been an increase in costs for services.”
When asked about county agencies losing out on lottery profits, Stelle, of the Commonwealth Foundation, said: “It’s up to the administration to decide the way they structure the funding. But we can’t really talk about decreasing waiting lists until we get more revenue.”
However, local agencies might not share in that revenue if the state diverts it elsewhere.
Phan-Gruber said her agency is “neutral” on privatization. “But we have seen the increase in referrals [for services] over time,” she said. “We’re going to have a big population to serve.”
The Fund for Investigative Journalism provided support for this story.
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