When you get a census form next year, Orange County wants you to fill it out.
Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a nationwide survey to determine how the characteristics of the U.S. population have changed and how to allocate federal funding for the upcoming decade.
Beginning on April 1, 2020, the Census Bureau will attempt to count every person residing in the country in order to reapportion congressional seats, potentially redistrict states and distribute over $675 billion in federal funding every year until the next census.
Numbers captured from the census help local, state and national officials plan where to build emergency services and routes, schools and government buildings. Businesses also use the numbers to determine locations for factories, stores and offices, which will bring more jobs to certain areas.
If there is an undercount, certain populations will be misrepresented, which may affect everything that is accomplished or planned using the census.
In North Carolina, undercounting results from some fearing how the government will use the information, inadequate funding and “hard to count communities.”
Hard to count communities, specifically in North Carolina, include children under the age of 6, people of racial or ethnic minorities, renters and migrant populations.
Whitney Tucker, a member of the N.C. Complete Count Commission, explained the impact of undercounting children on congressional seats in 2010.
“In 2010, North Carolina undercounted so many people, particularly so many people under age 5, that independent researchers said that we would have likely already received another seat in Congress if we would have counted those kids the last time around,” Tucker said. “So now some researchers are saying that we could even potentially pick up two seats in Congress if we accurately count all of our citizens.”
The 2020 census will be the first census to be completed primarily online, Tucker said. Residents will receive a postcard in the mail on April 1, 2020 with a code that is unique to their household. They will have to go online, enter the code and then proceed to fill out the census.
In areas the Census Bureau recognizes as having very little access to the internet, households will receive the paper version to then mail back to the bureau. However, in other areas, people that do not have access will have to go to libraries and other places that have free internet access.
In Orange County, the OC Complete Count Committee will establish “Be Counted Sites” that will have public computers with free and reliable internet access for residents to come and fill out the census form online.
Karen Stegman, a member of the Orange County Complete Count Commission, said the committee will try to increase and encourage participation.
“The committee will work with 'trusted ambassadors' to those hard to count communities to encourage participation,” Stegman said in an email. “We will produce marketing materials, such as posters, flyers, utility bill inserts, public service announcements and more, to be shared with community partners and educate the public to encourage participation.”
Because of the 2010 census, North Carolina received $23.8 billion dollars each year in federal funding to support all of its counties and state programs, and the budget for the next 10 years depends on the 2020 count.
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