When driving down a smooth, paved road with the windows down and the sun streaming through the trees, what thoughts flow through your mind? Chances are, you are not thinking of where the funding comes from to pay for the road maintenance. But you actually play a key role in ensuring the roads are maintained. An important source of funding comes from data extrapolated from the Census. Our community benefits the most when the census counts everyone. Federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities are based on population totals and breakdowns by sex, age, race and other factors. When you respond to the census, you help our community get its fair share of the more than $675 billion per year in federal funds spent on public works such as roads, as well as schools, hospitals, fire departments and other vital programs.
How did this happen? The Founders of our fledgling nation had a bold and ambitious plan to empower the people over their new government. The plan was to count every person living in the newly created United States of America, and to use that count to determine representation in the Congress.
Previously censuses had been used mainly to tax or confiscate property or to conscript youth into military service. The genius of the Founders was taking a tool of government and making it a tool of political empowerment for the governed over their government. The Census has been taken every 10 years since 1790 according to the first Article of the Constitution:
"Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers...within every subsequent term of ten Years..."
- The Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 2.
What does this mean for you? The Census is more than just a snapshot of who we are and where we live. It provides vital data for business owners to decide where to set up shop. It provides funding for training and equipping our volunteer fire departments. It also indicates communities most at need for vital programming and services for families, older adults, and children. Education and school lunch programs, Medicaid, mental health services, hospitals are all bolstered by funding allocated by the Census data. The Census strives to count everyone living in the United States and its five territories.
One person should respond for each home. That person must be at least 15 years old. They should live in the home or place of residence themselves and know general information about each person living there. The better the response rate, the better we are provided for. You can track the response rates of the Census on the interactive map at 2020census.gov/response-rates to see how your municipality and state compares to the rest. Are you up for the challenge of making this year’s Census the best response rate?
How can you help? Complete the Census. If you are responding for your home, count everyone who was living and sleeping there most of the time as of April 1, 2020. This includes young children, foster children, roommates, and any family members or friends who are living with you, even temporarily.
The only exception is if someone was staying with you temporarily on April 1 due to the COVID-19 situation; they should be counted where they usually live. There are three easy ways to ensure your entire household is counted. Complete and mail the Census invitation mailed to your address. If you did not receive a mailed invite or you misplaced it, you can respond by calling 844-830-2020. You can also respond online at My2020Census.gov. Challenge friends and neighbors to complete the Census as well. Then, the next time you drive down that smooth, paved road, with the windows down and the sun shining through the trees, you can smile, knowing that you played a part in making that happen.
Jennifer Shukaitis is Stroud Township Supervisor. Pocono Record My Turn columns highlight opinions from the Poconos and beyond. Submit My Turn columns for consideration to email@example.com. Letter writers’ opinions are their own and separate from this publication.