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Published April 02. 2014 05:00PM

Last month's sequester cuts put a number of county agencies, already treading water with their budgets, in dire financial straits.

Unfortunately, the biggest losers are the very young and the very old.

With some 300,000 citizens over age 85, Pennsylvania has the third-highest elderly population in the country behind West Virginia and Florida. We learned last week that lower reimbursement rates to county Area Agencies on Aging from the state Department of Public Welfare have already caused agencies in 10 counties to drop the Aging Waiver program, which has helped thousands of seniors across Pennsylvania live safely in their homes.

Services range from finding an aide to provide assistance with bathing to dressing and housework and arranging for meals to be delivered. The Aging Wavier program also relieves the taxpayer of paying for costlier nursing home care, estimated to be two-and-a-half-times that of care for seniors who remain at home.

After the federal sequester cuts took effect, TIMES NEWS writer Chris Parker reported on how the reductions would trickle down to impact state and county agencies.

State Secretary of Aging Brian Duke said the reductions are actually a 9.1 percent and cut about $14 million from the roughly $136 million in federal funds the state gets to help feed senior citizens through Meals on Wheels programs. He said right now, the state is not in a position to replace the federal money that was lost, so it falls to the Area Agencies on Aging to address the shortfall.

JoAnn Nenow, president of Pennsylvania's Meals on Wheels program, also reported that if seniors did not receive meals, many would not be able to continue living in their homes and could end up in a nursing home environment.

Nenow said the state's senior programs have been underfunded for a long time, even as the senior population has been increasing. Sequester cuts have made it worse.

You can apply that old idiom about being penny wise and pound foolish to this sorry mess. Our Washington bureaucrats can be very careful with small amounts of money, but wasteful and extravagant with large sums.

As those federal foul-ups become more frequent, taxpayers, including our vulnerable seniors, end up paying for it.

By Jim Zbick

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