Census Underway Despite Pandemic

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Somewhat lost in the response to the COVID-19 virus, and its effects, the 2020 Census is now underway across the United States. Preparation has been going on for months, as Census takers have been recruited and plans made. But, in the early going things have progressed slowly, prompting officials to stress the importance of an accurate count at the local, county and state level. In an effort to encourage participation, Census officials recently offered information on how the numbers are used.

“People sometimes ask why is the Census important,” a news release offered. “State population counts from the decennial census are used to reapportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. No state has permanent claim to their current number of assigned House seats. State population counts determine how the 435 seats are split across the 50 states based on each state’s share of the national total.”

Federal officials estimate that after the 2020 Census, southern and western states are expected to gain seats—and political clout—at the expense of states in the Northeast and Midwest.

“The Census Bureau will publish apportionment population counts by Dec. 31, 2020, affecting the size of state delegations for the 2022 U.S. House elections and state votes in the U.S. Electoral College for the 2024 presidential election,” it added.

State and local officials use decennial census results to help redraw congressional, state and local district boundaries to contain roughly equal numbers of people to ensure each person’s voting power is closely equivalent--meeting the one-person, one-vote rule. Officials indicated the Census Bureau will publish redistricting data no later than March 31, 2021—within one year of Census Day.

Other than representation, they noted funding is key to those counts.

“Census totals help determine the amount of funding that state governments and local communities receive from the federal government for the next decade,” they offered. “Census Bureau data were used to distribute more than $675 billion in federal funds to states and local communities for health, education, housing and infrastructure programs during Fiscal Year 2015.”

In turn, officials note accurate census counts ensure that funding is equitably distributed for numerous programs such as Medicaid, highway planning and construction, special education grants to states, the National School Lunch Program and Head Start.

Data from the census is also used in a wide range of government, business and nonprofit decision making.

“Governments and nonprofit organizations rely on decennial census data to determine the need for new roads, hospitals, schools and other public sector investments,” they added. “Census data are also vital to businesses as a key source of information about the U.S. population’s changing needs.”

Officials also use such figures to determine response in the wake of disasters, and to determine where and how much help is needed.

“Detailed population information is critical for emergency response in the wake of disasters. First-responders and disaster recovery personnel use census data to help identify where and how much help is needed,” they explained. “Similarly, demographic details from the census assist epidemiologists and public health personnel in everything from tracking disease outbreaks, to combating the opioid epidemic to improving child health.

Once compiled, the information will also be of use to a number of federal agencies.

“Decennial census data provide a population base for dozens of federal surveys,” the release explained. “The Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program uses census data in combination with birth, death and migration data to produce annual population and housing unit estimates. These estimates are then used as population controls for the American Community Survey, Current Population Survey, and many other federal surveys—so that the numbers of housing units and people in certain categories agree with the Census Bureau’s official estimates.”

This data will then be used to determine where funding should go, based on the number of respondents.

“Population also determines the need for new roads, hospitals, schools and public sector grants,” a spokesperson added. “So, if you are concerned about your roads, streets, highways, school districts, hospitals and federal grants remember—every person counts.”

Frank Staples served as a Census worker recruiter for this area and has since began gathering information. He noted many are choosing to complete the Census online, and noted it may also be done by telephone or mail.

He encouraged anyone having difficulties completing the Census, or wanting more information, to contact him at 618-525-5786. Those with general questions about the surveys, or the Census itself, may call 844-330-2020.

Staples also noted there are still job opportunities for those interested, and he encouraged those who might be interested to call 855-562-2020 for additional information.

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