Down for the Count: Making sense of the census

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Joshua Bougie was in Crawfordsville last week to help Montgomery County begin to prepare for Census 2020. Bougie, a native Hoosier, came from the Chicago regional office of Census 2020 to give a workshop for the Montgomery County Wellness Coalition and others to set the state to achieve as complete a count of every resident of Montgomery County as is possible.

The Montgomery County Wellness Coalition has been appointed by the county commissioners to create and coordinate Complete Count committees to help the task succeed.

As Bougie pointed out, a census is conducted in our country every 10 years because the Constitution calls for that. Census taking has been done since 1792. The national count is vital to each of us because its results both determine how many federal dollars come into each state (Indiana currently receives nearly $18 billion a year); and, crucially, the census also determines Congressional districts. At this point in time, Indiana has nine Congressional districts. While this is not expected to change, it could — based on census data.

Overall, $675 billion annually are distributed to the states. Federal dollars fund things from highways to student loans, from SNAP food programs to career and technical training programs. Federal dollars help with water and sewer upgrades and dozens of farm programs. They pay for free and reduced lunches in schools, for special education programs; they pay for Pell grants and for the CHIP health program, and much more.

Businesses use census data to decide whether they want to establish themselves in a community; census data helps decide where new roads are built. In a word, census data determines what our communities will look like over the next decade. Therefore it is vital that everyone be counted so the correct amount of funding reaches our county.

In 2020, for the first time, people will be able to answer the few simple census questions on line. You can also fill in your census data by telephone or send in your form by mail. Privacy is highly protected: all personal information (names, address, age, occupation) is protected from public scrutiny for 72 years. So, no one will be able to look at the individual census data you record in 2020 until 2092. The census data from 1940 is on schedule to be public soon.) The census questionnaire is available in 59 different languages.

The census count has nothing to do with taxes. It is a simple count of all U.S. residents as of April 1, 2020. This includes exchange students, migrant workers, babies born that day and people in care facilities, and everyone reading this column.

Residents can expect to get a postcard in the mail in mid-March and are strongly encouraged to fill it out right away. That makes the process smooth and saves us all money.

Unfortunately, in each census — and that is true in Montgomery County as well — about 25-29% of people do not fill in the census form. In order to get those people counted, census takers must fan out and go from door to door to count individually those who haven’t responded. This laborious, costly count begins the end of April.

So, residents, please fill out your census form as soon as it arrives. This puts our county in the best position to get our fair share of federal dollars and saves countless dollars on the door-to-door count. If you have questions about the 2020 census, please contact: Chicago.rcc.partnership@2020census.gov.

The League of Women Voters is a national partner with Census 2020. In Montgomery County, the Wellness Coalition is the point organization. You may contact its chair Holly Catron (catronh@purdue.edu) with questions. Census 2020 is also hiring census takers. Workers will be hired to work from 4-40 hours/week, and scheduling is flexible. Workers are paid weekly. The pay is $18.50/hour.

 

The League of Women Voters, open to men as well as women, is a nonpartisan, multi-issue political organization which encourages informed and active participation in government. For information about the League, visit the website: www.lwvmontcoin.org or send a message to: LWV, PO Box 101, Crawfordsville, IN 47933.

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