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Letter: Why can't lottery funds be allocated to support visual services?

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Recently, as the director of Development and Public Relations for Vision Resources of Central Pennsylvania, I accompanied our executive director, Danette Blank, to the state Capitol to assist in a day of visits to our state representatives, in support of the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind. The PAB oversees the state funding that each regional agency, like Vision Resources, receives, and it was an honor to participate in the experience.

We all had an important message to convey regarding the PAB budget allocation in 2009 that was reduced by a little over $430,000. Unfortunately, the legislature funding cuts were followed in 2011 with an allocation from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation of approximately 2.5 percent of the statewide association's funds. This resulted in nearly $54,000 in additional funding reductions.

Worthwhile to note, although the funds were severely cut, the program and service requirements of each agency to receive financial support remained at the same levels, adding additional stress to agencies across the state.

Seeing state funding cuts to PAB dating back four to five years, and rising costs to meet required program and service expenses, I began to think … why can't lottery funds be allocated to support some of these services for the blind and visually impaired? Lottery money has traditionally been available for the state's elderly: property tax and rent rebates; free transit and reduced-fare shared rides; the low-cost prescription drug programs PACE and PACENET; long-term living services; and the 52 Area Agencies on Aging, including full-time and part-time senior centers throughout the state. These funds are all to assist the aged, and it just so happens that the majority of blind and visually impaired in the state of Pennsylvania fall in that age demographic, but there are no specific lottery funds designated to assist with their needs.

If lottery money can be used to provide reduced and free bus fares — which, by the way, is nice but has very little impact for the larger population of blind and visually impaired individuals across the state — why can't our elected representatives make appropriate legislative changes to the existing lottery code to allow previous PAB funding to be restored, to better serve the elderly blind and visually impaired in our state?

—Paul Zavinsky,

director of development and public relations, Vision Resources of Central Pennsylvania

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