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Congress Asked to Help Elderly Who Face Eviction

June 28, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A Pennsylvania congressman, citing the case of a 92-year-old woman who was dragged out of her home kicking and screaming, said Wednesday that Congress should help elderly Americans who face eviction.

″We need a mechanism by which there would be ... an automatic community response to the anguish of an elderly person about to lose one’s home or be evicted,″ Rep. George W. Gekas, R-Pa., said in testimony before the House subcommittee on human resources.

Gekas introduced an amendment in February to the Older Americans Act of 1965 that would require states that receive funds under the act to notify the area agency on aging when legal procedures are begun that would result in a person 65 or older losing his home because of non-payment of debt.

Gekas’ bill would require written notification of the state agency within seven days after the proceedings have begun and would halt any action for at least 60 days.

The proposed legislation was prompted by last summer’s eviction of Effie Kapates from her Harrisburg, Pa., home. The house was sold after the 92-year- old woman failed to pay back taxes on the property.

″She was screaming and squirming and resisting to the last moment against sheriff’s deputies doing their duty,″ Gekas said.

″I have an 89-year-old mother and I would hate to see her being carried from her own home,″ said subcommittee chairman Dale Kildee, D-Mich.

Elizabeth A. Schreffler, executive director of the Dauphin County, Pa., Area Agency on Aging, testified that her agency was not notified until two weeks before the eviction, even though Kapates had lost title to her house four years earlier.

″She would have been eligible to receive a 100 percent tax rebate through the auspice of the Pennsylvania lottery fund,″ Schreffler said, adding that Kapates later moved in with a daughter.

″In a way, we failed that lady as a community,″ Gekas said.

Advocates for the elderly generally back the legislation, but some don’t want it linked to state funding.

″Withholding older American Act funding because of the lack of action by a state legislature could jeopardize many older persons who depend on OAA- supported nutrition programs,″ said Margaret Williams, president of the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

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