Burns: Cambria County AAA pays $122,461 after feds investigate

Lack of transparency, honesty cited in probe of misused Foster Grandparent Program funds

EBENSBURG, Feb. 22 – As an elected official called on to procure millions in state funding for myriad projects, state Rep. Frank Burns is troubled by the flagged lack of transparency and honesty at the Cambria County Area Agency on Aging, which recently had to pay $122,461 to resolve claims of misspent funds after a federal investigation.

Burns, D-Cambria, said the payment was prompted by a joint U.S. Attorney’s Office and AmeriCorps’ Office of Inspector General investigation of the CCAAA’s administration of a federal Foster Grandparent Program grant.

According to a December news release from the feds, “From 2016 to 2017, CCAAA allegedly failed to properly administer the AmeriCorps grant by directing its FGP staff to double or triple volunteer hours on timesheets and thus pay inflated, unearned stipends to volunteers. Volunteers were also allegedly awarded ‘bonus’ hours for service activities that they did not perform.”

Encapsulating the situation, U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero said, “It is important for participants in federally funded programs to be transparent and honest about how those funds are used. When a grant recipient misuses funds, the beneficiaries in need, such as underserved youth here, are deprived of the opportunities those funds are meant to provide.”

Stephen Ravas, AmeriCorps’ acting inspector general, added, “CCAAA’s decision to use its grant to pay Foster Grandparent volunteers for hours that they did not serve deprived the community of services intended for its benefit. The non-profit’s inability to account for federal funds violated the trust that the public places in AmeriCorps Seniors grantees.”


“I believe this type of thing happens way more than people know. But there’s nobody reporting on it.” – State Rep. Frank Burns

Burns, while supporting the intent and goal of the Foster Grandparent Program and those who participate, said the federal slap-down and dearth of local news coverage on the stiff rebuke come as no surprise.

“I believe this type of thing happens way more than people know. But there’s nobody reporting on it. Why was no one criminally charged? I think that anywhere else, there would be some consequence – you would at least lose your job, right?” Burns said.

“Wallpapering over reality by ignoring anything bad does nothing to change things for the better in Cambria County. It only promotes the myth that all is well, which serves the goal of the elites and entrenched insiders.”

Burns, who has fought for transparency and accountability at all levels of government and the nonprofit sector, particularly with Vision Together 2025, said more local-level questions, answers and probing should stem from the CCAAA Foster Grandparent Program situation.