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Proper count could net additional $1 billion annual funding for the state of Oregon

The 2020 census is quickly approaching, and helming the local effort for an accurate count is Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann, District 4.

"The census lets us dig down so much deeper and attract resources into East County," Stegmann said.

The decennial census is a once-a-decade population and housing count of all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The data collected helps secure federal funding, determine the number of seats for each state in the U.S. House of Representatives and draws congressional and state legislative districts.

The census data is used by businesses and industrial companies to decide where to open new branches. School districts use it for the formation of boundaries, and cities pull census numbers to direct new public works projects and safety measures.

The next census count will begin on April 1, 2020.

"This isn't work we can do in a silo. This is a community effort," Stegmann said. The Federal Government has more than $675 billion in funding to distribute based on the results of the count.

From the 2010 census, Oregon has received about $13 billion annually. But the state loses access to money it is supposed to receive every time someone isn't counted.

Experts estimate Oregon should have been getting an additional $1 billion.

In 2010, one-in-five Oregonians did not return the census questionnaires. With population projects putting Oregon at about 4.3 million residents, that would mean in 2020 there would be 867,712 people not counted.

"That is money left on the table that we need and is our fair share," Stegmann said.

Stegmann and her team is focused on the communities that are chronically undercounted.

They are young kids, mobile residents, racial and ethnic minorities, non-English speakers, low-income people, the homeless, undocumented immigrants, those untrusting of government, the LGBTQ community, those with mental and physical disabilities, and those not in traditional housing.

One plan for the 2020 census is for it to be largely conducted online, which raises its own set of issues, one being that roughly 18 percent of people in East Multnomah County don't have internet access.

"We don't know if the citizenship question will be on the form," Stegmann said.

For more info about the census, visit www.census.gov or follow @uscensusbureau on Twitter.


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