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McDonnell's change of plans good news to SAAA

By Alex Bridges -- abridges@nvdaily.com

The General Assembly won't consider a budget proposal which would have hurt the state's agencies that help elderly residents.

The Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging applauded the news as it makes progress coming out from under recent financial woes.

Gov. Bob McDonnell asked the General Assembly on Monday to withdraw an amendment he had proposed in the biennial budget for fiscal year 2013-14. The amendment sought to align state funding for Area Agencies on Aging with recent data in the U.S. census. The General Assembly passed over the amendment, effectively withdrawing it, according to the governor's office. As a result, the state will continue to allocate funds to the agencies in the same manner as prior years.

The SAAA, headquartered in Front Royal, anticipated seeing a loss of $46,450 in state funding, according to Roberta Lauder, director of resource development for the SAAA. The reduction would have been a result of a change in the funding formula which relies on census data and looks at the number of elderly people living in different areas of the state.

"This amendment eliminates funding that would hold area agencies on aging harmless from changes made in triple A allocations resulting from the decennial census," Lauder added. "Then what [McDonnell] has done is to withdraw the amendment so that means the money would be there, so that's a very good thing for us, all the triple A's in the state."

"We would have lost some funding, yes," Lauder added. "We would not have been hit as hard as some. ... It was significant, but there were other triple A's that would have lost two and three and four times as much."

The Virginia Department for the Aging estimates that the money available for fiscal 2013 -- approximately $1.18 million -- which would go to area agencies, represents an increase of $962 from the previous year.

It also includes the "hold harmless" funds now restored to the budget by the withdrawal of McDonnell's amendment, according to Lauder.

The original amendment sought to reduce funding to area agencies on aging by $1 million in fiscal 2013 and by $1.5 million in fiscal 2014, Lauder said.

The formula that the Virginia Department for the Aging uses to allocate funds has changed as a result of the census; populations in some areas have grown and in others they're lower, according to Lauder.

The General Assembly and the State Department take the census figures to determine the allocation of money to the regional agencies, Lauder explained.

"Sometimes they can be rather drastic for a triple A and they can be losing a great deal of money and so this 'hold harmless' money that was in the budget, that the governor proposed to take out of the budget, was really going to augment funds that triple A's would lose and take them down over a period of years rather than suffer that loss in funding all at one time," Lauder said.

Census numbers showed a smaller growth rate of Virginians eligible for types of services provided by the agencies. Under the formula that determines funding for the agencies, the amendment would have shifted some of the funding from areas with no or slow growth in the elderly population and reallocated the money to parts of the state with higher rates.

McDonnell's decision to ask the General Assembly to withdraw the amendement came after groups and care providers expressed concern that a change in the existing formula to account for population shifts would have a disproportionate effect on work done by agencies in some communities, according to the governor's office.

The SAAA received other positive news last week. The agency's Forty Friends Campaign raised $40,368 to exceed the fundraising effort's goal of $40,000, according to press release issued by the SAAA. The agency received a check for $1,000 from Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Stephenson on May 8. Students of Scott King, a professor of an Adult Years Psychology class at Shenandoah University, held various fundraising efforts which culminated May 1 with their presentation of a $1,000 check to Ebbie Williams, the agency's director at the Active Living Center in Winchester.

Valley Health also has made its matching gift of $10,000 to the SAAA, bringing the total contribution to $15,000.

The Forty Friends Campaign remains open and the website will list donors through May 31. Visit www.shenandoahaaa.com or mail a tax deductible donation to SAAA, 207 Mosby Lane, Front Royal, VA 22630. Please put "Forty Friends" on the memo line. Call SAAA at 635-7141, extension 222, to make a donation by credit card.

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