What you may not know about the upcoming census – and probably should

While April may still seem far away, many local leaders are buckling down and working hard to raise awareness about the importance of being counted in the 2020 Census.

Every 10 years the United States Census counts everyone living within the United States. The federal government uses this information exclusively to distribute more than $800 billion each year across states, counties, and cities. This funding helps communities with everything from improving hospitals, schools and fire departments, to highway planning and construction, and support for social services.

In March, Great Lakes Bay Region residents will receive a letter in the mail with a unique online login and instructions on how to complete the 2020 U.S. census.

Though responses can still be accepted by phone or mail, the 2020 census will be the first time it can be completed online.

An online census is a shift in strategy for the U.S. Census Bureau, which is seeking to move away from door-to-door visits to cut costs by decreasing manpower. This has some concerned that the transition to digital census-taking may mean an undercount for their counties.

The Midland Area Community Foundation is partnering with other community foundations in Bay, Isabella and Saginaw counties through the Great Lakes Bay Regional Census Hub and, together, they are working together to ensure an accurate count.

Each person that is not counted affects the local city government’s money that it gets through grants and fund distributions.

Information published by the Michigan Nonprofits Count Campaign shows a study by George Washington University found that an undercount could mean a loss of nearly $122 million in annual federal funding for Midland County. That equates to a $1,466 loss for each person not counted.

While census results are critical in determining funding allocation, it also impacts political representation.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, census data is used to determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and to redraw boundaries for state and local legislative districts.

After the 2010 census Michigan lost a seat in the House of Representatives and an undercount could mean the risk of losing potentially two more.

Based on response rates from the 2010 census results, there are specific populations that are hard to count. Among those are rural seniors without access to technology, homeless and transient people who may not have an address, and off-campus students.  

The 10-question census form collects basic demographic and housing information. Everyone living in the household on April 1, 2020 should be included in the count.

An individual’s data collected from the census is confidential and protected by federal law, therefore it cannot be shared. A rundown of the 2020 census questions and why they are included can be found on the United States Census 2020’s website.

You can find more information about why this effort is worth your time as well as the ramifications at the local, state, and federal level by learning about the impact to Midland County here.

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