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Senior citizens in Greenville protest merger of state departments


Seniors in Pennsylvania are protesting a merger they believe is a money grab to take funds from senior programs.

Under Governor Tom Wolf, millions of lottery dollars that were supposed to be used for seniors have already been used for Medicaid.

Senior citizens in Mercer County and around the state rallied to tell Wolf to keep his hands off lottery money that funds their programs and to keep the independent state level position for the Department of Aging.

“These senior citizens need to have a place to go, need to have a place to feel like they are still of value,” said Mary Ann Marshall of Greenville.

At the Greenville Senior Center, people enjoy activities, meals and services. Others who are homebound depend on services to keep them out of expensive nursing homes.

The center serves about 1,000 people a day.

They are sending post cards asking state lawmakers to reject the Governor’s proposal to combine four state departments into one.

This means the PA Department of Aging – which only has 100 employees – would be rolled in with Health and Human Services, which has more than 16,000 employees.

“I worked here when we were under Welfare,” said Sam Bellich, CEO of Mercer Agency on Aging. “It was horrible. The senior citizens were the last ones to be thought of. They were the last ones to get any scrap that was left over.”

The Governor has a gaping $2 billion shortfall in the 2017-18 budget and needs to make cuts somewhere.

Seniors say the state needs to stop balancing its budget deficits on their backs, but Governor Wolf says breaking down the barriers between the agencies would make government more efficient for taxpayers and all 13 million members of the commonwealth.

His consolidation plan would require approval of both the House and the Senate.

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