Pa. schools, social service agencies to receive some state funding

One of the latest casualties of the budget impasse is the Mercer County Area Agency on Aging, Inc. The agency has run out of money and will close four senior centers on Monday.
One of the casualties of the Pennsylvania budget impasse is the Mercer County Area Agency on Aging, Inc. The agency ran out of money and closed four senior centers in November.

GREENVILLE, Pa. (WKBN) – Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf again did not approve a budget to end a six-month stalemate, but there was some good news for senior citizens and school children in the state.

Wolf released more than $23 billion using his line-item veto power for the state’s school systems, social service agencies and county governments. That means that schools officials, who feared they would be unable to pay teachers or run buildings, will be able to reopen after the holiday break.

But still, there is no budget, and lawmakers are on recess.

State Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer, said he is frustrated by the process.

“The legislature should be in session each and every day in Harrisburg until it’s done,” he said.

On Tuesday, House Speaker Mike Turzai said leaders of both parties agreed there will be no House sessions through Sunday and that representatives will be on a six-hour call starting Monday. The Senate also does not plan to convene this week.

Gov. Wolf has criticized GOP lawmakers for sending him a budget plan that he opposed before leaving Harrisburg for the holidays.

Longietti said new talks must be scheduled soon.

“I’ve been frustrated with that process. Twice I’ve been in the chamber all alone, calling for the speaker to reschedule us into session so we can finish it,” he said.

Human service agencies should know soon when their money is released.

Sam Bellich, CEO of the Mercer County Area Agency on Aging, said the money is sorely needed.

“Because the budget impasse has gone on as long as it has, we have really bled to a critical point,” Bellich said.

All of the county’s senior centers are closed. That upset many people, who went as far as to protest the state impasse in late October.

This fall, the Agency on Aging laid off half of its staff and used all its reserves in an effort to keep providing services.

“We’ve got to look at how much is going to come in to our coffer and what our ramp up time would be,” Bellich said.

Those senior centers will reopen as soon as possible.

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