Pictured: Island Packers has resumed trips to the Channel Islands. Photo submitted. 

Census questionnaire distribution resumes

The U.S. Census Bureau, in coordination with federal, state and local health officials, last week began dropping off 2020 Census questionnaire packets at front doors of 1,005 households in Ventura County. The bureau is targeting areas where the majority of households do not receive mail at their physical address. The bureau began hand-delivering census materials on March 15, but suspended operations on March 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Field staff have been trained to observe all social distancing protocols and will wear official government-provided personal protective equipment. Packet distribution is contactless and follows the most current federal health and safety guidelines.

Providing questionnaires is crucial to ensuring a complete and accurate count of all communities, which helps guide hundreds of billions of dollars in public and private sector spending per year.

People are strongly encouraged to respond promptly to the 2020 Census using the ID number included in the questionnaire packet. People can respond online, by phone or by using the paper form in the packet. 

For more information, please visit 2020census.gov/en/news-events/operational-adjustments-covid-19.html.

County approves $20 million for local businesses and families

In the wake of the pandemic, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors has authorized an Economic Stabilization and Recovery Program for local businesses and families. $10 million dollars will be allocated to the business support program and another $10 million will support rental assistance for individauals. $5,000 grants will be available for each business. The application process has not yet begun but those interested in applying should visit www.vcreopens.com. Businesses already registered with the county will be informed about program details and timelines. 

Amtrak Surfliner expands service

Starting on June 1, Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner service will be partially restored between San Luis Obispo and Los Angeles. The schedule was reduced in March due to a drop in ridership as a result of the pandemic. The increase in service is in response to changes in demand. Details online: www.amtrak.com/pacific-surfliner-train.  

Funds for energy back-up in fire zones

$500 million has been approved to expand the budget for the Self-Generation Incentive Program providing funds for homeowners in high-fire risk areas to install energy storage systems that create backup energy during Public Safety Power Shutoff events and to build resiliency. Details and application online: www.selfgenca.com

Ventura Rotary art scholarships announced 

Five area high school students have been awarded a total of $10,000 in scholarships by the Rotary Club of Ventura. The program received 35 entries of original artwork with the theme of “Perspectives on Peace,” that included drawings, paintings, mixed media, needlework and woodwork, photography, video and song. 

Winners are: First prize, $5,000, Meghan Carter of Foothill Technology High School; second prize, $2,500, Sedrik Dedman of Buena High School; third prize, $1,500, Audrey Abbe  of Foothill Technology High School; honorable mentions of $500 each to Yalda Kotobi of Ventura High School and Lindsey Johnston of Buena High School. 

A digital presentation of the artwork is online at:  perspectivesonpeace.org/2020-winners/.

Regenerative farmer in Camarillo receives national grant

Rogelio Amaro (left) with farming partner Matt Palermo. Photo submitted.

Rogelio Amaro of Camarillo’s Exit Central Farm has received a $5,000 grant to assist the growing of the farm. The program of the National Young Farmers Coalition received funds from the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. This grant program was launched to support farmers and ranchers, with an eye toward historically underserved producers, in growing their businesses during the pandemic. Fifty grants were awarded from a field of 1,500 farmers who applied. Over 70 percent of the recipients are women, nonbinary or transgender farmers, and 39 of the 50 recipients are black, indigenous or people of color. 

Amaro is working to build healthier soil for healthier food and plans to focus the grant money on rent for the land he farms on so he can focus on farming and connecting his community to healthy food. 

Local 585 endorses Zaragoza for mayor

Current Ventura County Supervisor John Zaragoza for Dist. 5, who is termed out in his role as supervisor, has received the endorsement of the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA) Local 585 based in Ventura, in his candidacy for mayor of Oxnard. 

“John has been a long-time champion for working families by advocating for good jobs, raising the minimum wage, increasing access to healthcare, fighting for social justice and advancing career education and job training programs,” said Anthony Mireles, business manager and secretary treasurer, Local 585. 

Scorpion Fire on Santa Cruz Island contained

Officials have reported that the Scorpion Fire that burned over 1200 acres on Santa Cruz Island is now contained. Forty-nine wildland firefighters battled the blaze that ranged from Scorpion Valley to Smugglers Cove. An additional 20-person crew and air assets waited on standby in Ventura in the event that more support was needed. No structures were lost and no injuries were reported. Island Packers transported fire crews to and from the island. 

Island Packers resumes trips to Channel Islands

After a closure due to the pandemic, Channel Islands National Park concessionaire Island Packers reopened on June 1 with protocols that include screening all staff for symptoms before each shift, reduction in onboard capacity and a requirement that all passengers wear face masks. Island Packers is the only vendor authorized to transport members of the public to the Channel Islands National Park. 

For details and reservations visit www.islandpackers.com or call 805-642-1393

Lori Varlotta. Photo submitted.

CLU selects new president

California Lutheran University has chosen Dr. Lori E. Varlotta as its eighth president. Varlotta will be the institution’s first female president, and begins her position on Sept. 30, replacing Chris Kimball. Varlotta, currently the president of Hiram College in Ohio, has published extensively on topics ranging from diversity and inclusion to service and leadership to assessment and accountability.