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Slow elder abuse reviews, devastating results

Plus, Dem governors to meet with Biden.

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A daily newsletter by The logo of Spotlight PA, an independent, nonpartisan newsroom producing investigative journalism for Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen

Wednesday, July 3, 2024
Today: Devastating delays, Biden call, SEPTA's 'quality of life' crackdown, gun numbers, and Scranton to NYC by train. Thanks for checking in.

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Most of Pennsylvania’s 52 county agencies responsible for protecting older adults are failing to swiftly review complaints of suspected abuse or neglect, some taking five or more times the mandated 20 days for determinations.

There has been a simultaneous and staggering increase in the number of older Pennsylvanians who have died during an open case of suspected abuse or neglect, according to a new Spotlight PA investigation. 

Investigative Reporter Angela Couloumbis writes:

State aging officials have attributed the increase in large part to the state’s growing population of older adults, a sharp rise in abuse and neglect complaints, and the pandemic that wreaked disproportionate havoc on vulnerable populations.

But because the department does not track the cause of death for people who die during open investigations and county agencies aren’t required to report it, accountability is near impossible.

Read the full investigation: Abuse and neglect reviews for aging Pennsylvanians are woefully slow. The results can be devastating.

Correction: Yesterday's edition incorrectly identified the number of consecutive late budgets in Pennsylvania. This year’s is the third in a row.


"It's like a Seinfeld episode."

An unnamed real estate agent on buyers who still haven't received deeds to properties they bought in Philadelphia sheriff sales, without explanation
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A woman in Berks County shares what local news coverage she wants to read as part of a Spotlight PA study
Berks County residents are extremely frustrated with the diminished capacity of the local newspaper and they are concerned about a lack of access to trustworthy information in their community, according to a groundbreaking study released last week by Spotlight PA.

In response to the findings, Spotlight PA is planning to launch a new regional reporting bureau in Berks County to be supported primarily by people living and working in the region. Read the full story, and then support the effort »

SPECIAL EVENT: Join us Tuesday, July 9 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a one-on-one interview with author Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, whose new book explores how the urban-rural divide in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. is vastly overstated. Become a member to join this exclusive event.

ROCKY WATERS: Join us Thursday, July 18 from 6-7 p.m. ET on Zoom for a live panel on Pennsylvania’s private water industry, how it is regulated, and how communities are affected when service is subpar. Register for the event here and submit your questions to events@spotlightpa.org.

Black-eyed susans in Chester County, via Joyce P. Send us photos by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania
Bright orange and brown flowers in a group.
Today's top news story in Pennsylvania.ALL-HANDS: Democratic governors have been invited to meet with President Joe Biden today "as he attempts to solidify support among his party’s top leaders after last week’s shaky debate," the AP reports. Gov. Josh Shapiro's office said he plans to attend today's meeting virtually. "Nearly two dozen" Democratic governors held an internal call Monday to "commiserate" and look ahead, per Politico.
  • Did debate move needle in Biden vs. Trump?, via WaPo.
  • Would Shapiro, other Dems do better against Trump?, via Vox.
  • Biden will visit Philadelphia on Sunday, via @JuliaTerruso.
Today's second top news story in Pennsylvania.
TRANSIT TICKETS: SEPTA is cracking down on quality-of-life crimes on Philadelphia mass transit by upping penalties for low-level offenses like smoking, drinking alcohol, and public urination. Ticket issuing started Monday. SEPTA police chief Charles Lawson cited a rise in antisocial public behavior following the pandemic as the impetus.
Today's third top news story in Pennsylvania.
GUN VIOLENCE: Compared to the year prior, gun homicides were down 24% in Pennsylvania in the first four months of 2024, the second-largest drop in the country, WITF reports, citing the left-leaning Center for American Progress. Philadelphia is a standout, prompting conversations about what's working and what more could be done.
Today's fourth top news story in Pennsylvania.
SCOTUS EFFECT: Democrats in the Pennsylvania House are looking to preempt municipalities from criminalizing homelessness on the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the right of cities to do just that. A memo says the forthcoming legislation would also work to ensure local governments secure adequate low-barrier housing.
Today's fifth top news story in Pennsylvania.
LONG COUNT: Three votes separate state Rep. Mike Cabell (R., Luzerne) and primary challenger Jamie Walsh in the heavily litigated ballot counting from April's primary there, with Walsh in the lead. The Times Leader reports Commonwealth Court has granted Cabell’s request to count one provisional ballot (cast by his cousin) and reject another.

BOGEN CONFIRMED: The Pennsylvania Senate has confirmed Debra Bogen as Pennsylvania Secretary of Health a year and half after Gov. Shapiro nominated her for the role, WHTM reports. Eight Republicans voted no.

RETURN TO OFFICE? The union representing thousands of city workers in Philadelphia is suing Mayor Cherelle Parker over her requirement that city staff return to in-office or on-site work full time, via NBC10.

RAIL RUNNERS: The return of passenger rail service between Scranton and New York City is newly plausible thanks to an infusion of federal funding. But Capital-Star asks: Will politics get in the way?

COLLEGE CLOSING: Clarks Summit University in Lackawanna County won't be back for the fall semester. WBRE/WYOU report financial problems at the 92-year-old Baptist Bible college will bring about its closure.

TENT NAMES: Harrisburg's Broad Street Market is asking the public to help name its temporary home following last year's fire. Finalists include "The Pavilion" and "Tenty McTentface," per UPI. Cast your vote here.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 5:30 p.m. on issue date will be countedPlease include your first name and last initial.

Yesterday's answer: Absorbent
Congrats to our daily winners: Vicki U., Eric F., Mike B., Timothy A., Stacy S., Bob C., Rosemary C., Jon W., Don H., Barbara F., Elaine C., Kimberly D., Jane R., Karen W., George C., Perry H., Jody A., Becky C., Michael T., Wendy A., William Z., David W., Annette I., David T., Ada M., Tom M., Richard A., Stanley J., and Jeffrey F.
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