The US Census is almost here
With billions of dollars in funding and political representation at the state and federal level at stake, officials are getting the word out about the importance of the US Census.
On January 31, local political leaders and state and federal census officials kicked off the census season with a special “Census Kickoff” at UMass Law.
The message is simple: Take the US Census. The annual population count and demographics poll of every person living in America has been taken every decade since 1790. Polling for the 2020 US Census is set to begin locally in mid-March with the first mailings of invitations.
Getting an accurate count of how many people call Massachusetts, Bristol County, and Dartmouth home is important for everything from school budgets to funding for federal programs.
The state uses population data as part of formulas for things like road repair funding and the Chapter 70 school aid formula. Even programs like Medicare come back to population data.
On a federal level, population data will determine where more than $675 billion in federal funding will go — covering everything from housing to healthcare.
The state’s voice in Congress is also determined by population through Congressional districts. As a result of 2010 US Census data, Massachusetts lost a seat in the US House of Representatives.
Even grant funding for nonprofit organizations — like conservation groups such as Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust or the Dartmouth Historical and Arts Society — can be influenced by the population count of the communities the nonprofits serve.
“It’s important to get the word out about the importance of responding,” said State Rep Chris Markey (D-Dartmouth).
Markey was joined by State Rep Paul Mark (D-Peru). Mark represents the most rural district in Massachusetts in northern Berkshire County, where even reliable Internet service is a problem.
“Estimates show for every person not counted, the community loses $2,300 a year,” Mark said. “That can really add up.”
Every community has its own challenges in gaining an accurate census count. Although Markey said Dartmouth is easier than remote Peru, MA, there town’s large college population can be a challenge to account for. In Fall River and New Bedford, Markey said certain populations there can be a challenge to count.
Markey, Mark, and a panel of US Census officials want the public to understand several important messages: Census information is confidential, it is safe and secure, and more help is needed from communities to get the word out.
Data is held in the strictest of confidence, and cannot be shared with anyone — not even law enforcement. And the US Census Bureau is actively recruiting census takers, ambassadors, and other volunteer and paid positions to help.
For more information about the US Census, visit 2020census.gov.