TOWANDA - Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed state budget for the coming year includes a $50 million increase for services for the elderly, which would allow the local Area Agency on Aging to eliminate most, if not all, of its 132-person waiting list for services, the executive director of the agency said on Tuesday.

The list includes people who are waiting to receive home-delivered meals or who need personal care aides to provide in-home services, such as cooking and assisting them in bathing and dressing, said Bill Farley, executive director of the B-S-S-T Area Agency on Aging, which serves Bradford, Sullivan, Susquehanna and Tioga counties.

According to written information provided by the local Area Agency on Aging, 23 of the people on the waiting list are waiting for "personal emergency response devices," which would summon help if an individual fell or experienced a medical emergency.

However, the $50 million increase is contingent on the privatization of the management of the Pennsylvania Lottery, Farley said. It remains to be seen whether the privatization will go forward.

"The big issue (in Gov. Corbett's proposed budget) that could affect Area Agencies on Aging as far as services to seniors is the lottery privatization," Farley said at the most recent meeting of the B-S-S-T Area Agency on Aging's board of directors.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane last month rejected the state's lottery contract with British-based Camelot Global Services on grounds that it violates the state Constitution and lacks authority under state gambling and lottery laws.

Gov. Tom Corbett said Friday that his administration will revise the terms of the contract with Camelot in an effort to win approval from Kane, the Associated Press reported.

If the Corbett administration's revision curtails the expansion of gambling that the contract now permits, it could lower the $50 million increase in funding for the elderly that Corbett is proposing, Farley said.

The lottery generates money to pay for services for the elderly.

The waiting list had ballooned after July 1, when a cut in the state reimbursement rate for work done by Area Agency on Aging social workers forced the local Area Agency on Agency to eliminate $700,000 in expenditures for the current fiscal year.

Since then, the state has partially offset the cut by increasing the reimbursement rates for the social workers and for the costs of enrolling senior citizens in the Pennsylvania Aging Waiver Program, which will bring in an extra $50,000 during the current fiscal year and an additional $120,000 to $140,000 next year, Farley said.

Farley said that, based on ongoing discussions between Area Agencies on Aging and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare's Office of Long-term Living, it is possible that the reimbursement rate for the social workers' salaries will be increased again.

All told, the governor's proposed budget would increase state funding for the B-S-S-T Area Agency on Aging by approximately $500,000, of which $380,000 could be used to eliminate the waiting list, Farley said.

It would cost $315,000 annually to eliminate the waiting list, he said.

If the governor's proposed $50 million increase in funding for services for the elderly is approved, "we anticipate additional revenue that would certainly eliminate the majority of the waiting list" at the B-S-S-T Area Agency on Aging, and possibly all of it, Farley said on Tuesday.

The size of the waiting list has dropped since Dec. 31, when it stood at 171, Farley said.

Part of the decrease occurred because the Sullivan County commissioners decided to use some of Sullivan County's impact fee revenue to remove all 22 Sullivan County seniors from the waiting list, he said.

The Susquehanna County commissioners have also provided funds to keep seniors from Susquehanna County off the list, Farley said.

Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko said after the meeting that the Bradford County commissioners will sit down with Farley to evaluate the needs of the Bradford County seniors who are on the list.

"If seniors are in dire need, I will make sure their situation is taken care of" by finding the county funds needed to remove them from the waiting list, McLinko said.

A problem with using impact fee money to take seniors off the waiting list is that impact fee might not exist in future years, he said.

"The impact fee will not last forever," he said, adding that services for seniors need to be paid for with a funding source that "will last for years to come."

McLinko also accused Kane of "playing politics with senior citizens." "I'm appalled by that," McLinko said.

"She's jeopardizing senior citizens," McLinko said.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (5700 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.