Local officials encourage residents to participate in census


As the deadline for the 2020 census approaches, those involved in Jackson County are seeking as much participation as possible.

The census is a method of population counting that began in 1790 and is conducted every 10 years in the United States. It is essentially a questionnaire that will ask about who people are, where they live and with whom they live.

Conner Barnette, Jackson County’s building commissioner and a member of the county’s census complete count committee, said the data collected by the census is extremely important when it comes to federal funding.

Barnette said hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads and public entities receive yearly funding based on the results of the census. He mentioned roads and public safety as areas he hopes will see an increase in federal funding.

“Road funding is a big one. We’re one of the largest counties by area in the state, and that’s a lot of miles of road,” he said. “We’re trying to receive funding to be constantly repaving or whatever the process may be we’re going through. Roads are a huge thing.”

Public safety includes police and fire departments, emergency medical services and hospitals.

“The more people we get involved, the better it will be for them whenever they go try to apply for some of those grants and get that federal funding,” Barnette said.

Another area impacted by the census is federal government representation.

There are 435 seats in the House of Representatives that are divided among the states based on their population as reflected by the data collected through the census. That means while each state will at least have one, those with larger populations will have more. This is why Indiana has nine representatives, while California has 53.

This year for the first time, it will be possible to complete the census entirely online, which Barnette said has been done to increase participation.

“The hope is by making it easier to complete the 2020 census, more accurate data will become available,” he said.

Someone else hoping for increased participation is Diane Altemeyer, director of federal and state programs for Seymour Community School Corp.

She said the census is important for schools because of its impact on the amount of federal funding they will receive.

“We are really trying to bring awareness to our families that it’s important to participate because the census represents Jackson County, Seymour help services and schools,” she said. “Our Title I program, all of our federal funding and our programs that we’re able to provide are based on the funding that is funneled here to provide those services to our families.

“That’s particularly important for those early learning opportunities for those that will become our students, Head Start, preschool,” she said. “Young learners get to be involved in an educational opportunity, so from a school standpoint, that’s why it’s important for people to participate because it makes sure that we get our fair share of the funding and opportunities for our students.”

Altemeyer said since the 2010 census, Seymour schools have seen growth in many areas that the results of this year’s census will reflect.

“We have a higher number of students who receive meal assistance, who are on either our free or reduced meal program,” she said. “We’ve seen an increase in enrollment in general. We’ve seen an increase in students who are identified as homeless, so the need has grown. We have an increased number of students learning English, students from immigrant families.”

She said the schools have been doing their part in promoting the census by using social media and spreading useful information to teachers and students.

“We’ve started a social media campaign,” she said. “The U.S. Census Bureau did send us some printed materials, but not enough to really distribute to every student.”

With educating teachers, the U.S. Census Bureau has a statistics in schools website they can access that has resources that help with curriculum and education in the classroom.

“We’ve been trying to approach it from the classroom standpoint, what can we do to make our students understand and take that information home and share it, but also starting that social media campaign as we get closer to census day,” Altemeyer said. “We will also be sending printed material home with our students.”

Barnette and Altemeyer both stressed the census is private and answers are kept confidential. They feel this is an important message to share as many don’t feel comfortable providing that kind of information, and some fear their answers may be used against them in the future.

The U.S. Census Bureau’s website says federal law protects your information.

“The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the United States Code,” the website says. “This law not only provides authority for the work we do but also provides strong protection for the information we collect from individuals and businesses. As a result, the Census Bureau has one of the strongest confidentiality guarantees in the federal government.”

The website also says it is against the law for any Census Bureau employee to disclose or publish any census or survey information that identifies an individual or business.

“This is true even for interagency communication. The FBI and other government entities do not have the legal right to access this information,” according to the website. “In fact, when these protections have been challenged, Title 13’s confidentiality guarantee has been upheld.”

Census Day is April 1, and Barnette said everyone can expect to receive their census invitations around that time. In April, census takers will begin visiting the homes of those who haven’t responded by that point.

Those looking to complete the census online but don’t have access to the internet may go to the Jackson County Public Library.

Janet Hensen, information services manager for the library, said the building itself will be closed on Census Day, but WiFi will still be accessible from the parking lot for those with their own devices.

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To complete the census online, visit 2020census.gov.


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