Participation in the 2020 Census had been good in Crook County and throughout Oregon leading up to last Thursday's sudden deadline.
And this is likely good news, given that the household data could likely affect community and government services throughout the upcoming decade.
"The census is very important to the county," said Crook County Commissioner Jerry Brummer, "because that's how we figure out how many people are in each voting district." He added that a certain amount of state and federal funding per capita is provided to the county – roughly $3,000 to $4,000 per person. That funding primarily helps address health needs in the community.
"That is a huge amount for a small county like Crook County," Brummer said.
According to Donald Bendz, media coordinator for the U.S. Census Bureau's Los Angeles regional center, the federal constitution mandates a census get conducted every 10 years to get an official population count for apportionment purposes.
"That's how we determine how many seats Oregon and other states get in the (U.S.) House of Representatives," he said.
The census also helps determine representation for communities in state legislatures as well as other governing boards.
Bendz went on to confirm that communities have a financial stake in accurate census results.
"The reason that so many different counties, government agencies and nonprofits are invested in the census is because based on census data, hundreds of billions of dollars of federal funding goes back to local communities," he said.
In a state where more people are moving in than moving out, missing households that should have been counted could cause a community to get shorted the funds or services it needs.
"Every 10 years, your county and the counties around you in Central Oregon may look different," Bendz said. "So, you may have a need for different or more services. You may need more roads or wider roads. You may need new schools or more firehouses."
He added that businesses that are shopping for a location might turn to the demographic information compiled by the census to help inform that decision.
Initially, census information is compiled through a process Bendz likens to sending out wedding invitations. People receive a form in the mail, and they are given a chance to respond to it in a certain timeframe. Then, census takers are sent out to visit those households that have failed to respond – a process that began this summer for the 2020 Census.
According to Bendz, the overall response in Oregon had been good – about 99.9% – and few areas in the state had a high number of households left to visit. Those areas included a portion of homes between Bend and Redmond as well as near Klamath Falls and in Cave Junction. But that didn't make news of the last week's deadline any easier for Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to accept.
"Undermining the census will have devastating consequences for the next decade all across Oregon's communities, but especially for communities of color, tribal and American Indian communities, and other historically hard-to-count populations," she said. "An inaccurate census count will mean less funding for critical public services so many Oregonians rely on, like Medicaid, SNAP food benefits, and Section 8 Housing Vouchers."
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