The 2021-22 community grant budget for the Lebanon County Area Agency on Aging (AAA) has increased for this fiscal year thanks to federal funding made available due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The agency’s block grant funding increased from $3.38 million in 2020-21 to $3.41 million in fiscal year 2021-22, which comprises 83 percent of the agency’s overall budget of $4.10 million, according to AAA administrator Carol A. Davies.
Davies presented these figures on Tuesday during a public meeting held via Zoom to announce the block grant funding for the department’s current fiscal year, which began on July 1.
“A block grant is a source of money, it’s a big pot of money and is generally a flexible pot of money,” said Davies, who noted the agency provides services for county residents who are 60 years of age and older. “It gives us flexibility to do different things, depending on what we see as a need here in Lebanon County.”
Davies said AAA services cover more than 20 programs, with the most well-known initiative being Meals on Wheels.
“There are really 21 different sources of funding with 21 different sets of rules that we follow to provide services in the community,” she said. “There are also 21 programs, so 21 different kinds of money and 21 different programs that we provide. So each has some specifics that we must adhere to.”
Davies noted that the agency’s regular block grant funding of $1.93 million hasn’t increased in more than a decade. The other three sources for block grant funding include Options Services, Miscellaneous Grants, and Special COVID Funding, according to a graphic displayed during the meeting.
“If you know anything about money, you know that when the amount of money you have to work with doesn’t increase in more than 10 years, that can be problematic,” she said. “So it was very good news here in this year that we received some additional funding in our block grant.”
Davies said the additional funding came from the federal government through the national American Rescue Plan of 2021. The $1.9 trillion funding program is a coronavirus rescue package designed to facilitate the nation’s recovery from the devastating economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Money from the American Rescue Plan will continue through fiscal year 2023-24, she added.)
This infusion of additional revenue is welcome news for a county that, as indicated by the latest census data, is continuing to grow grayer every passing year.
From 2010 to 2019, Lebanon County’s resident population increased from 133,568 to 141,793, up 8,225. Of those additional individuals, 6,665 are at least 60 years of age, which is the minimum age requirement to qualify for one or more of AAA’s menu of services.
“According to that census data, there are about 142,000 people here in the county and over 26 percent of them (37,542) are over 60,” said Davies. “We know that Pennsylvania is a gray state, it is one of the grayest in the nation. Depending on how you define gray or older, we are somewhere in the top five. So Pennsylvania has a greater number than most other states, and Lebanon County for some reason has a grayer population than most other (Pennsylvania) counties.”
Davies added that Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964) have greatly impacted that demographic not only in Lebanon County but across the nation. With the exception of the age group 80 to 84, which consists of people who were born during the Depression when overall birth rates were down, every other demographic aged 60 and older has experienced an increase in its numbers within Lebanon County since 2010.
Davies also highlighted some AAA programs, including Meals on Wheels, which accounts for about 20 percent of the agency’s annual programmatic spending. Meals on Wheels and the agency’s caregiver program total about 40 percent of overall spending annually, she added.
“We serve at any time about 330 people a day for Meals on Wheels, and over the course of a year, we serve about 646 different people through the program,” said Davies. “As far as funding goes towards that, it’s about 19 percent of our budget, which is approximately about $700,000 (annually).”
Davies said the caregiver program works to assist seniors in their homes and/or provide support and services for adults who provide care for an older loved one.
Any individual 60 and older who wants to learn more about the various services the agency provides can visit the agency’s website, call 717-273-9262 or send an email for additional information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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