County commissioners approved a proposal this week from Clerk of Courts/Prothonotary Barbara Smith for the 2020 Passport Acceptance Day.

To be held in the clerk of courts office, Room 104, on Saturday, March 14, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., county residents who bring proper identification can have their passport photo taken and can also order a new passport.

“We had a great turnout last year,” Smith said.

No appointment is necessary, and last year, about 150 people showed up to order a passport.

Read More: Prothonotary to hold Saturday walk-in passport application day

However, not all were able to have the service done because they didn’t bring proper identification, or they wanted passports for their children, but didn’t bring the kids along, Smith explained.

Documents to bring include a birth certificate and photo ID, such as a driver’s license.

About 50 passport photos were taken, and 52 passports were ordered last year, raising more than $2,000 for the county.

Commissioner Bill Ames congratulated Smith on the successful program.

Prices are set by the state, Smith said, and are $10 to have a photo taken, and $110 to get a passport book for ages 16 and up.

For residents 15 and under, the price is $80.

For a passport card, the price is $30 for those 16 and above, and $15 for those 15 and under.

To expedite the process and receive their passport sooner, people may pay an extra $60, Smith said.

Children ages 15 and under must be accompanied by both parents, Smith said.

“We don’t charge a processing fee for veterans,” Smith said.

The costs for the county to hold a passport day include pay for a deputy sheriff and two door monitors during the four hours of the event.

While the passport card doesn’t hold all the benefits of a passport book, the card can be used as a viable “Real ID” card for the Commonwealth.

The passport card is good for 10 years and can be used as personal identification when flying domestically, or driving into Canada.

For those planning to fly internationally, a passport book is needed.

In another matter, volunteers for the APPRISE program of the Lebanon County Area Agency on Aging aired their concerns to the commissioners.

The APPRISE program helps seniors to find the assistance they need, such as getting PACE cards, help with Medicare issues, especially during open enrollment periods, helping with property tax and rent rebates, and directing seniors to agencies who can help them.

“All services are free to Lebanon County residents,” said Fay Fox, a volunteer with the program.

For about 18 months, APPRISE has been without a coordinator, a problem Fox believes is caused by too-stringent civil service regulations.

“We have numerous openings in the agency and the volunteers are frustrated due to the lack of leadership; this has led to conflict, with some volunteers leaving,” Fox said. “We wanted to inform the county commissioners of our frustrations.”

Volunteer Joann Steinmetz said the APPRISE volunteers saw 1,200 clients during 2019, or about 23 people every week.

Steinmetz told the commissioners about one woman who had gone through chemotherapy and was ordered to continue taking a specific medication.

The woman came to APPRISE in tears, explaining that her medication cost $10,000 every month.

The volunteers were able to get a grant for the woman, whose medication will not cost her anything as long as she needs it, Steinmetz said.

Last year, Fox said she helped a woman save $40,000, and without those efforts, the woman would have had to go into some type of subsidy housing, Fox said.

The bottom line, Fox said, is that seniors in the county need the APPRISE program.

Retired attorney Paul Wessell also asked for help in finding a coordinator for the program.

“I’m amazed at the level of service the volunteers do,” Wessell said. “But it’s clear to me that the program is deteriorating due to lack of leadership. If you don’t work to solve this problem, the program is going to get to the point where it won’t be there anymore.”

Commissioner Ames, Bob Phillips, and Jo Ellen Litz all thanked the volunteers for their service and dedication.

Litz asked if the coordinator position could be contracted out or if the civil service classification could be changed to bring in more potential candidates.

“The current classification has narrowed the field of people who qualify,” Litz said. “I believe one of these options will pan out.”

Ames said he would be willing to see the position outsourced to find a coordinator.

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