Bucks County Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick teamed up with Congressman Matt Cartwright, PA-8 and introduced the Senior Legal Hotline Act. This bill would authorize the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a competitive grant program for statewide legal hotlines serving seniors.
The federal grant program would be authorized at $10 million per year for five years. Legal hotlines give older adults a way to get legal advice or referrals, but these hotlines are seriously underfunded nationwide.
“Our seniors need our help, now more than ever,” Fitzpatrick said. “All of them are vulnerable to COVID-19, and forced to self-isolate, away from friends and family. By expanding the network of senior assistance hotlines, and providing federal funding, we can protect them from scams and misinformation.”
Co-sponsor Congressman Cartwright, a Democrat from the Scranton-Wilkes Barre area, said, “The need to protect seniors during this difficult time is something both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Sadly, there are dishonest people out there using this public health emergency to scam older Americans and con them out of their savings.”
The passage of the Senior Legal Hotline Act would support another tool in Pennsylvania’s arsenal to help older adults and ensure their rights are being protected, including the (PA) SeniorLAW Center. Currently, there is no federal funding for senior legal hotlines or consistent support.
The COVID-19 outbreak has made the need for accessible legal services for seniors vital. As millions of older Americans on fixed incomes follow social distancing guidance and remain home, they require free and remote legal assistance to deal with a host of issues including medical, shopping, investment scams and app fraud; devastating financial exploitation; emergency protection from abuse; emergency custody for grandparents raising grandchildren; and urgent housing and health care questions and needs.
Due to funding issues, legal hotlines in many states have closed, and others operate on reduced hours. The SeniorLAWCenter’s senior legal hotline operates in Pennsylvania and is generally open Monday through Thursday, from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.