April 2020 and the all-important U.S. census will be here before you know it.
Frederick County’s leaders in government and civic organizations are well aware of how vital it is to make certain that everyone living in the county gets counted, and they are already preparing to make that happen.
The Frederick County Complete Count Committee for the 2020 Census met recently to plan strategies for encouraging Frederick County residents to participate. Their work is absolutely vital if the county is to have the means to take care of the least fortunate of our residents.
The census numbers are used for everything from drawing state legislative and national congressional districts to distributing federal and state aid to local governments. That’s right — having an accurate count of the people living in the county means a lot to everyone.
Countless federal assistance programs — including school lunches, health insurance, food stamps and early childhood education — rely to some extent on census data to determine state and local funding allocations.
Ken Oldham, the CEO of United Way of Frederick County, told our reporter that the cost of not filling out the census, in terms of lost funds, is roughly $1,800 per person each year. Since the census data is used for 10 years, that means a loss of about $18,000 per person.
“That is a lot of money that could be coming our way doing to support [Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed] households and those in need in other programs and projects in our communities,” he said.
ALICE families are the working poor, and they are often the people who fall through the cracks of assistance programs. The United Way has made helping those families one of its key goals, an effort that we applaud.
By April 2020, most households will get a notice asking them to fill out a census form one of three ways: online, by phone or by mail.
“And if we don’t do as well a job with the complete count as possible, we’re going to pay for that for 10 years, and that’s a long time not to have the best possible information,” Oldham said.
It is a bitter irony that the people who are most likely not to respond to the census are the very people who need the help the most, and are most likely to suffer from a shortage of aid caused by an undercount.
Studies have shown that they are young families with children, the poor living in rural areas, and immigrants — those in the U.S. legally and illegally. Immigrants were especially concerned about the Trump administration’s plan to ask a citizenship question on the census and were fearful of how that information would be used.
The question was struck down by the Supreme Court and will not appear on the form. But distrust of the government lingers.
The people on the Complete Count Committee are trusted leaders in the community. They will work through the winter to explain what the census is and why it is important.
This is a big job, and we wish the committee well in its efforts. We hope they will be able to reach the entire county and get us as close to a complete count as possible. We are counting on it.