Tuesday, October 3, 2023

The Survey Says. . . Why the census is so important


In a year like no other it could be easy to overlook a simple, but powerful, way to aid your community — by filling out the census survey.

Every ten years, the federal government Constitutionally required to take count of the country’s citizens with a census. Along with counting the citizenry, basic demographic questions about age, sex and race are asked as well.  The gathered information is employed to affect the influence of state governments in national politics, including how many Congressional representatives each state will have, and how many electoral votes are allotted for each state during a Presidential election.

Despite the significant consequences which are based on the census data,  many people don’t realize or appreciate the importance of the census.  Between now and the next census in 2030, hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds will be distributed to local governments with census data being a major factor in how money is allotted. A George Washington University study found 55 federal programs,  including Medicaid, Federal Direct Student Loans, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and even highway planning and construction, are funded based census data concerning a community. 

It isn’t just the government that uses census data. Many private sector organizations examine census data to determine where to open new businesses or to determine where social services are most needed. As a result, incomplete data will result in our most vulnerable communities experiencing disinvestment — both public and private.

Unusual Obstacles

Lucas County Commission Tina Skeldon-Wozniak, co-chair of Lucas County Compete Census Count, explains that COVID-19 has presented a unique challenge for obtaining complete census counts. “In previous census years, we had opportunities to meet with people at large and regular community events. [Under COVID-19], we have lost that ability.”

And an inaccurate, or incomplete, census count is a big problem for Toledo, which faces a significant decrease in federal funds with a low census count. As of August 24, only 57.2% of Toledo’s known population had completed the census, well below the state’s completion rate of 68.3%.

Providing further difficulty to obtaining an accurate count is  a recent abrupt change in the deadline for completing the census. On August 10, the US Census Bureau suddenly announced that the deadline to complete the census would be changed from October 31 to September 30, providing census employees with less time to connect with individuals through door-knocking. 

Fears persist with some citizens that by responding to the census that data will be used against them in some way. Immigrants whose legal status may be in question are skeptical about contributing data to the census, given the federal government’s recent and unpredicatable crackdown on undocumented immigrants. Some in the community are urging people to overcome their fears and complete the census on the basis that the tangible benefits outweigh the perceived risk.

Doing Your Part

To ensure that our community receives it’s fair share of our tax dollars, every Lucas County resident should complete the census by September 30. Make sure to tell your friends, neighbors, and coworkers to do their part – and remind them that funding for education, healthcare, emergency response, workforce development, infrastructure and much more hangs in the balance.

Completing the census typically takes five to ten minutes and can be done over the phone by calling 1-844-330-2020 or online at my2020census.gov. The census does not ask for, or require you to provide, social security numbers, political preferences, or citizenship status, and there is no cost associated with responding to the census.

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