This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
The state now assists the counties in the maintenance of charitable relief with respect to two classes of dependents: (1) the insane, and (2) indigent widows and abandoned wives who have dependent children. State aid to counties for the purpose of assisting them in the maintenance of asylums for the insane is carried out under the authority of an act of 1897.105
Under this act 21 counties now care for the insane, receiving $2.00 per week for each indigent patient. In 1915 there were about 8,000 insane persons in these local asylums while the population of the state institutions was 10,876.106
On the whole the county care system has not worked well in Pennsylvania.107 In theory the State Board of Public Charities is given power to compel the localities to provide equipment and treatment that shall in its judgment be adequate. The penalty that the board may inflict for refusal to comply is the revocation of the license of the local institution to conduct an asylum. Such revocation would automatically cause the withdrawal of state aid. How ineffectual this check has proved to be has been shown in Dr. Haviland's report.
By an act of 1913 the state undertook to provide a pension for indigent widows and abandoned mothers. *108 The act provided for a board of from five to seven women in each county to act as commissioners or trustees for the administration of the provisions of the law. In order to make application for a pension it was required that the applicant should "be worthy in every way," and that she should show that the pension was necessary to enable her to keep her children in her own home. The pension varied from $12.00 per month, when the mother had only one dependent child, to $26.00 when she had three, and five dollars for each additional child above three. The administration of the law was left entirely in the hands of the local trustees who served without pay but who were allowed compensation only for expenses. The state agreed to pay one-half of the amount expended in any county that accepted the scheme. The amount to be disbursed from the state treasury was limited, however, to $200,000 for the two years 1913-15. Accepting counties, were required to pay one-half of the amount necessary to meet the cost of the pensions.
104 Act 29 April, 1915, P.L. pp. 200-202.
105 Act 25 May, 1897, P.L. pp. 83-84. See also an earlier act of 26 June, 1895, P.L. p. 231. See also acts amending the act of 1897 as follows: Act 13 May, 1909, P.L. p. 535 and Act 25 July, 1913, P.L. p. 1355.
106 Board of Public Charities, Report (1915), pp. 262-273.
107 See supra, pp. 233 ff.
108 Act 29 April, 1913, P.L. p. 18.
By 1915 the plan had been accepted in some counties but only a part of the $200,000 had been disbursed. The law was amended in that year, the most important change in the act providing for the appointment by the governor of a woman qualified by training and experience to act as State Supervisor of the system.109 The evident purpose of the legislature in providing for this official was to secure more control over the local boards of trustees and to encourage the acceptance of the plan by a larger number of counties. The supervisor is both the organizer and the administrative head of the system. She is required to travel from county to county to inspect the work of the boards and to make uniform rules for their guidance. She is also required to report annually to the State Board of Education.
The law of 1915 changed the method of distributing the subvention. By the act of 1913 the share of each county was determined by its population. But the act of 1915 created six classes of counties, according to population, and divided the funds available among them in arbitrary percentages.110 How this scheme will work out in practice cannot, of course, be ascertained at the present time.
109 Act 18 June, 1915, P.L. pp. 1038-1044.
110 Class I, counties having a population of over 1,000,000; Class II, over 200,000 and less than 1,000,000; Class III, over 100,000 and less than 200,000; Class IV, over 50,000 and less than 100,000; Class V, over 25,000 and less than 50,000; Class VI, under 25,000. Counties in Class I are entitled to equal parts of 30% of the total appropriation; those in Class II to equal parts of 15%; those in Class III equal parts of 30%; those in class IV to equal parts of 15%; those in Class V to equal parts of 7%; those in Class VI, to equal parts of 3%.