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Office to absorb cuts to maintain senior services

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bureau of Senior Services' central administrative offices will absorb budget cuts in excess of 10 percent in the 2012-13 state budget in hopes of deflecting the impact of the 7.5 percent overall cuts ordered for most state agencies by the Tomblin administration, Commissioner Robert Roswell told legislators Monday.

"That allowed us to reduce some of the cuts that go directly to services," he told the House Finance Committee.

The 7 1/2 percent cut will not affect Senior Services as much as many state agencies, since only about 11 percent of its budget comes from general revenue, with Lottery proceeds, federal funding and special revenue accounting for most of its budget.

Overall, the agency's budget will be cut about $1.79 million, to $91.36 million.

In 2012, the bureau served nearly 230,500 seniors, with 64 percent of its clients being 75 or older. Of those, 25 percent have incomes below the poverty level, and two of every three clients live alone, he said.

The bureau provides a variety of services to clients, including personal care, caregiver respite, transportation, homemaker services, with meals -- both home-delivered and served at senior centers -- accounting for 61 percent of the total, he said.

In 2012, the bureau provided 1.4 million home-delivered meals and nearly 1 million meals at senior centers.

While the congregate meals are frequently as much for social wellbeing as nutrition, the in-home meals meet a critical need, Roswell said.

"We tried to absorb as many cuts in the central office as we could first," he said. "We wouldn't want to cut more meals, and we wouldn't want to cut more in-home care -- either would be bad."

Also Monday, members of the Senate Finance Committee discussed ways for the state Treasurer's Office to streamline the process for family members to claim property held by the Unclaimed Property Division.

At issue is when unclaimed property is in the name of a deceased family member. Current law requires reopening that person's estate in order for survivors to claim the property.

Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette, said that process is time-consuming and costly and discourages families from claiming smaller amounts.

"I think people may leave money lay because it takes more than $200 of work to do that," he said of smaller amounts of unclaimed property.

Treasurer John Perdue said his office is required to follow state law for such claims, and it would be up to the Legislature to change the law to make it easier to claim property under those circumstances.

In 2012, Unclaimed Property returned more than $9.5 million of property to rightful owners. However, the division currently holds about 944,000 accounts with a total value of about $171 million, he said.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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