Lassen Senior Services loses federal funding

Lassen Senior Services has lost its PSA 2 funding — which, according to Penny Artz, LSS executive director, amounts to $147,000 per year.

In a letter to its clients, LSS said it plans to continue to serve meals to nearly 200 seniors daily. The organization will continue its fundraisers such as the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot and the popular barbecue competition, but it is asking the community for financial support by sponsoring a senior.

According to a flyer, “Lassen Senior Services is a nonprofit organization providing our community with programs and services which provide Meals on Wheels to many home-bound senior citizens in (the) Susanville, Westwood, Janesville, Milford, Doyle and Herlong areas. Many of these homebound seniors have no one else to turn to, and in some cases, the drivers who deliver these meals are the only social interaction these people have. We provide one meal daily to approximately 110 seniors in Lassen County.”

The annual cost per senor is $600; the bi-annual cost is $300; and the quarterly cost is $150.

“Won’t you please help us continue this much needed program for the senior of our community?” the flyer asks. “Thank you in advance for your tax-deductible donation to help us get through these very unsettling times.”


So what happened?

Artz said the organization ran into difficulty providing information and reports to PSA 2 as required. The agency apparently billed different agencies for the same services, and it has since paid that money back.

Artz said LSS’s old computers were not up to the task of providing information to PSA 2 as it required, and she has since purchased a new computer to handle those reporting requirements.

Artz said LSS plans to apply for the PSA 2 grant for next year, and she believes it is the best local nonprofit to provide the services because it owns the Lassen Senior Services building that contains a commercial kitchen as well as the vehicles to deliver the meals.

“The funding through PSA 2 Area Agency on Aging was cancelled,” said Teri Gabriel, PSA 2’s executive director. “There were some requirements that were necessary for the program to meet before we could continue working with the program, and unfortunately the program was unable to meet those requirements after about a year of working with them to get them on par. Our funds are public funds — federal and state taxpayer funds — and part of our work to provide the funds for older adults is to monitor those funds and ensure they are being used properly according to state and federal regulations.”

Gabriel said PSA 2 worked with LSS to bring the agency into compliance, but the effort failed in the end.

“Unfortunately, when that happens we can no longer work with the program,” Gabriel said. “We hope that one day we will be able to work with Lassen Senior Services again. We’re going to open it up for other organizations or agencies to apply for the funding so we can restore the funding for the services to Lassen County … It’s there (the funding), we’re just go to be seeking a different program to bring it back to Lassen County.”

The new funding would be available beginning July 2021 and will run through June 2024.


PSA 2 minutes

According to the PSA 2 minutes from its March 2021 meeting, the agency conducted a forensic review of LSS and has recovered funds from the Susanville nonprofit, but “there remained serious concerns with the overall fiscal operations of LSS.”

The audit, conducted by Charles Pillon, CPA, noted, “The overall cost pool could be substantiated by documentation. No concerns of fraud or abuse were noted, however, the cost allocations that LSS used to report costs against the various funding sources need to be revised to reflect a correct distribution of costs across all programs using an accurate direct cost allocation method.”

The major concern that led to the audit was “the same invoices being billed to PSA 2 as that billed to LSS’ other funding sources such as the Lassen Plumas Sierra Community Action Agency … and the use of Lassen Transit Services Agency grant funds were used for home delivered meal services rather than non-food delivery meal services such as transportation.”

According to the minutes, “ … the areas which must be addressed prior to consider(ing) moving forward with LSS included the development (of) a cost allocation plan and time studies, resolution to the conflict of interest on the board of directors, separation of duties, the addition of fiscal staff to support fiscal operations and ensure accuracy in the monthly reporting process and improved coding of invoices to verify the appropriate grant source is being charged for the expense. Currently, only a fraction of the expenses documented should have been charged to PSA 2; however, PSA 2 and the other grant revenue sources were charged for the ‘whole pie’ which demonstrates over-reported expenses. It is also recommended that LSS reevaluate their services and funding levels for all resources. Addressing and rectifying these concerns would help to raise PSA 2’s confidence and that of California Department of Aging in moving forward with LSS.”

The PSA 2 board unanimously approved a motion to withhold the funding from LSS.