You can do your city or county a favor today while you’re stuck in your home or apartment due to the coronavirus.
It is simple and will take you only 10 to 15 minutes.
It involves that blue piece of paper you received in the mail just over a week ago. Yes, the one that came from the U.S. Census Bureau.
On that paper you’ll find an email address and a code to fill out your Census information digitally. Punch both into your computer and nine questions will be asked of you. They’ll want to know things like how many people will be living in your home on April 1, your gender, marital status and race.
The importance for the region to have an accurate count cannot be emphasized enough. The disbursement of more than $300 billion of federal funds and even more in state funds is tied extensively to census data. This is money that funds all levels of government as well as providing valuable information to the private sector. Examples of usage:
• Title 1 grants to school districts across the nation.
• Road rehabilitation and construction.
• Forecasting future transportation and infrastructure needs.
State and local:
• Planning budgets
• Determining where jobs and jobs programs are needed
• Public transportation
• Potential homeowners use data to research property values and median income.
• Corporations use population data when determining site locations for commercial enterprises from food stores and pharmacies to shopping centers and medical facilities.
• Economic and statistical reports used for research by manufacturers, citizens and media.
In addition, census numbers determine state and local legislative districts.
During the 2010 Census, more than 10,000 Allen County households didn’t participate, thus leaving an estimated half a billion in state and federal dollars on the table for other areas to take. Local leaders have launched a major effort to keep that from happening again, a key part being the formation of the Lima/Allen County Complete Count Committee.
With this being the first time the Census Bureau is gathering data digitally, the committee has recruited organizations throughout the community to assist residents by allowing them to use their computers. Those organizations include the Lima Public Library, the Allen County Department of Jobs and Family Services, Western Ohio Community Action Partnership, Area Agency on Aging 3 and St. Mark United Methodist Church.
The committee is also relying on some new tools. Mobile count centers will be deployed at a future date, allowing committee members to be able to track which areas have yet to respond to the census.
The problem in the past which the committee is trying to overcome is getting local buy-in and combating disinformation.
Census maps from 2010 show a concentration of low participation rates throughout the city, especially among those living on the south side. Barriers that stop people from filling out the form include language, informal and/or complex living arrangements, distrust of government, lack of awareness and myths about who needs to be counted.
The digital data collection is the first stage of the census count. If residents fail to fill out the form after the first mailer, they will eventually receive the option to fill out a more standard mailer that can be sent back to the Census. If that fails, Census workers will still be making rounds and knocking on doors to count the stragglers.
Ten to 15 minutes of your time right now could make a big difference.