More than just a count of heads, Census data add up to a weighty financial factor that affects local and regional services.
As preparations for the 10-year U.S. Census count are underway, many public entities and officials are taking steps to help ensure an accurate count is achieved.
That was the case on Wednesday, May 22, when the Marion County Board of Commissioners, who held their weekly meeting in St. Paul, approved a resolution to establish the county's dedication to an accurate and complete 2020 Census.
What does an accurate Census reading mean to the region?
"Census data have a direct impact on the allocation of approximately $1 billion per year to Marion County in federal and state funding, including Medicaid, Medicare, highway planning, supplemental nutrition assistance, housing vouchers, school lunch and other programs," said Lisa Trauernicht, a Marion County senior policy analyst.
That billion is based on the county's Census numbers.
"We know that the county has grown in the last 10 years, and we only get this count every 10 years," Trauernicht advised. "So the importance is there because the funds that come are related to (many services) All of the things that really impact our community are based on based on the census numbers."
Trauernicht said the grass-roots effort is underway, while the county is partnering with multiple entities, including the state and regional cities, that are affected by census counts.
Commissioner Sam Brentano noted a couple of examples to illustrate the significance.
"When I was mayor of Sublimity, we felt like (the census count) missed our biggest senior residence, Marian Estates, and it was just about that amount of people we were short," Brentano said. "It cost the city a substantial amount of money for the next 10 years. So you've got to get it right."
He added that the town of Idanha in Santiam Canyon has had inaccurate counts which skew statistics about income levels, making incomes appear higher than what they are in the relatively-recessed area. Those inaccurate numbers have prevented the community from qualifying for various grants and obtaining supplemental assistance it would receive otherwise.
"Those are examples of why the accuracy is important," Brentano stressed.
Commissioner Kevin Cameron noted that the state of California is investing a hefty sum to ensure that its census count is accurate.
"When you think of California spending $220 million to get their count right, you know it's important," Cameron said. "Lisa mentioned a billion dollars that comes back to Marion County…that's all the monies that flow through schools, and all kinds of places -- cities, infrastructure, ODOT. So it's really important that we get the count right."
Groups involved in facilitating an accurate census count are across the board.
"The census is very important for determining federal funding and representation for Woodburn and for Oregon," said Woodburn Mayor Eric Swenson, who invites local residents to contact his office to discuss the topic.
"Over the summer we will be forming subcommittees to help us ensure we reach as many as people as possible," Marion County spokeswoman Jolene Kelley noted. "Subcommittees will include faith based communities, language & access, education and libraries, and community based organizations."
Census factsThe census counts every person living in the U.S. once, only once, and in the right place. Every 10 years the results of the census are used to reapportion the House of Representatives, determining how many seats each state gets. The U.S. Constitution mandates that everyone in the country be counted every 10 years. The first census was in 1790. The distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities are based on census data. After each decade's census, state officials redraw the boundaries of the congressional and state legislative districts in their states to account for population shifts. Completing the census is mandatory; it's a way to participate in our democracy and say "I count." Businesses use census data to decide where to build factories, offices and stores, which create jobs. Local governments use the census for public safety and emergency preparedness
Residents use the census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life and consumer advocacy.Real estate developers use the census to build new homes and revitalize old neighborhoods. It's against the law for the Census Bureau to publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you or your household; by law, your responses cannot be used against you and can only be used to produce statistics.
In 2020, you will be able to respond to the census online.You are the expert – the Census Bureau needs ideas on the best way to ensure everyone in your community gets counted.
--United States Census Bureau
Online: Visit Marion County's census-information page at MCcounts.com.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.