County focusing on census

Venango County commissioners have launched an effort to enhance the count in the upcoming 2020 U.S. census.

“We will form a committee to help us target people who might be undercounted, such as the elderly or the under-privileged or anyone who might be hesitant to talk with strangers,” said Tim Brooks, chairman of the commissioners, following a commissioners meeting Tuesday.

The U.S. Constitution requires that the nation take a national head count every 10 years.

The information collected is used to determine the number of congressional seats in each state, based on population, and significantly affects how much federal money is allocated to states.

In a proclamation adopted Tuesday, the commissioners noted it is “of the utmost importance to the interests of all the people of the United States that this census should be a complete and accurate report of the population and resources of the country.”

Emphasizing the national count doesn’t have any ties to taxation, military or jury service, compulsion to attend school, regulate immigration or enforce any law, the commissioners stressed “due protection” will be afforded to all persons furnishing information as to safeguarding private data.

In a brief presentation to the commissioners, census organizer Dwayne Lehman said, “The mission is to count every person in the U.S. and count them once and in the correct location. … It will be safe and it will be easy.”

Lehman said the 2020 census will be the first to accept information online and any personal information submitted “will not be shared.

The census count determines the distribution of federal monies for more than 300 federal programs, said Lehman.

“Billions of dollars are allocated in federal funds … going back to the states,” he said. “That amounts to almost $2,100 per capita in Pennsylvania.”

The county’s resolution regarding the census concludes, “The commissioners do hereby declare and make known that, under Act of Congress, it is the duty of every person to answer all questions on the census schedules that apply to him or her and the family to which he or she belongs.”

Brooks said the county will select a committee, one that could include “ministers, social service workers and others,” before the census gets underway next April.

Jobs and training

Two programs designed to provide training as well as employment opportunities and supervised by the county were singled out for praise at Tuesday’s meeting.

The commissioners approved the renewal of a contract with Svetz Consulting Services that provides a small business entrepreneur program through the county Veterans Affairs office.

“It started about six years ago and more than 30 veterans have gone through the eight-week program,” commissioner Vince Witherup said. “And, over 75 percent of them either started their own business or were able to stay in business. This is really helping the vets.”

The second program is an agreement with PaCareerLink/ResCare that provides job training for individuals ages 18 to 24. The arrangement allows those program enrollees to learn skills by working with the county prison system.

Assistance is available

Three representatives from the Venango/Forest County Animal Response Team (CART) outlined their volunteer program to the commissioners.

“We are not a rescue team,,” said Ginny Kellogg, coordinator for the CART project. “We help in emergencies (house fires, traffic accidents) and take care of that extra family member.”

The team, one that Kellogg said “works quite a bit with the Emergency Management Agency,” is equipped and trained to respond to those emergencies. More volunteers are being sought for the CART program, she added.

In other matters, the commissioners were informed that Crosby Beach at Two Mile Run County Park will close for daily use Aug. 25. It will reopen Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 for the Labor Day holiday.

And Anita Fuchs was appointed to the Venango County Regional Planning Commission board.