Channel 11 explores how lottery proceeds benefit older Pennsylvanians

PITTSBURGH — You’ve likely heard the slogan: the Pennsylvania lottery “benefits older Pennsylvanians.” But how does that work? Channel 11 took that question to various agencies and officials.

“We are the only state lottery that directs all proceeds to programs that benefit older residents,” said Ewa Swope, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Lottery.

Other states, for comparison, put that money toward education or other state funds.

But since its inception, the Pennsylvania Lottery has contributed $32.6 billion to various programs for seniors.

Each time you play, about 23% of your dollar goes toward those programs. Sixty-seven percent goes back to winners, 8% pays retailer and vendor commissions, and 2% covers general operating expenses.

While the PA lottery generates the money, the state legislature determines how exactly it’s distributed to senior programs.

Currently, based on a breakdown provided to Channel 11 by the Governor’s Office, that money helps to cover:

*Low-cost prescription assistance through PACE/PACENET, which is offered to seniors with a certain income

*Free or reduced-fare public transit, which Pennsylvanians 65 and older can access locally. PennDOT then reimburses local transit systems

*The Department of Human Services’ HealthChoices programs for Medical Assistance recipients

*Property tax/rent rebates administered by the Department of Revenue and distributed to seniors who file and qualify

*Direct funding to each county’s Area Agency on Aging.

Each Area Agency on Aging receives an allocation based on census data, according to the Governor’s Office.

Data from the last fiscal year reveals that Allegheny County’s agency received $28,428,635, the most of any county within our region. For comparison, the agency in Westmoreland county got $8,091,767, while Washington’s saw $4,972,207.

Each agency offers a number of significant services for older residents.

“Not only do we provide services here, with our staff reaching out to seniors, but we do work closely with the senior centers, with congregant meal preparation and delivery services, with ombudsman, with protective services. We have a wide variety of supports and services,” said Shannah Tharp Gilliam, who serves as the administrator of Allegheny County’s Area Agency on Aging, is deputy director of the Department of Human Services, and has a Ph.D. in developmental psychology.

Tharp Gilliam added, “we have a contract process, and we look for high-quality services that can deliver and meet the needs of seniors in our county.”

Among the agency’s nearly 80 partners is AgeWell, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh’s senior center, which offers a number of services, classes, meals and more.

County/state funds account for 48% of AgeWell’s total revenue, meaning it would have a hard time operating without lottery players, according to staff.

Channel 11 visited the center recently, and spoke with several seniors who raved about the programs offered. The companionship and fitness classes help them keep active, happy and healthy.

“I come here every day because I love the food and I love the people,” said senior Julie Murphy. “This is one of the best places that ever happened to me.”

Tharp Gilliam said seniors are welcome to call the Area Agency on Aging’s intake and assistance line at 412-350-4234 for information on senior centers, meals and other help that’s available to them.

Anyone who is concerned about how a senior is being treated can call the protective services line at 412-350-6905.