Government leaders say every census is important because the numbers shape how much federal money comes back to local programs and how much representation the area gets in Washington, D.C.
The 2020 Census, however, is taking on more significance for the region, experts say.
The count comes every 10 years, and this one will show how the region changed in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
And many minority groups are distrustful of giving their information, prompting local leaders, faith communities and businesses to say they will work double-time to get out information proving the census is secure, officials said.
“We need to count everyone once and only once — and in the right place,” said Carol Hector-Harris, media specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau - Philadelphia region. “If we miss anyone, we’re missing federal money and we’re missing representation in Congress.”
The census determines the number of Congressional districts in each state and helps determine which communities and states receive nearly $700 billion per year in federal and state assistance.
Counting every person helps local counties, cities
Butler County Commissioner T.C. Rogers said he believes the count here will show the population has increased.
“This is a big thing,” Rogers said. “Everybody across the region is talking about it because there is a concern in Ohio we are losing population but I think in southwest Ohio and especially Butler County we are bucking that trend. We still have population growth, but it doesn’t matter unless you can prove it.”
There are three Census 2020 Complete Count committees working in Butler County to ensure every head is counted, in the county, Middletown and Oxford. County Director of Development David Fehr said there are 17 entities represented on the county committee, all of the social service agencies like Job and Family Services; the cities of Fairfield and Hamilton, townships, the vet board and more.
Establishing the Oxford committee was important because of the Miami University students, he said.
“Oxford has their own complete count committee because those college students do count for the city of Oxford’s population,” Fehr said. “It’s where you lay your head at night. So even though they may live in Cleveland and go to school at Miami, on April 1 if they sleep in Oxford at the dorm or an apartment that’s where they are considered to be residents.”
The committee has completed an update of all local addresses the census system already had and added new addresses they believe will be occupied by census day April 1. The committee is also helping the Census Bureau recruit more census takers locally.
People can fill out their census forms online, by phone and via mail. The county is establishing a “Census Shop” in the old snack shop on the first floor of the Government Services Center in Hamilton. They are providing workstations and staffing to help people fill out the forms online. It will open March 12. The libraries and bookmobiles will also have online access for people.
After April 1, the Census Bureau will have a system to find areas where responses have been low, Fehr said
“As people are completing the census you’’ll be able to use the mapping tool to look at response rates,” he said. “So we as committee will know, hey we’ve got a pocket in West Chester where we’re just not getting responses, we can then kind of mobilize resources to that area.”
Census workers still needed
The census office that serves nine area counties, including Butler and Warren counties, is holding “a big hiring operation” in the next couple of weeks looking to reach its desired goal of 11,000 positions filled by mid-March, according to Angelique Burns-Barrett, area census office manager.
“We will keep recruiting and hiring until we get the numbers that we want,” Burns-Barrett said.
So far 70 percent of jobs are filled overall, with Butler County up to 57.2 percent of what’s needed there and Warren County at approximately 96 percent of its required staffing. The seven other counties represented by the census office include Clark, Clinton, Fayette, Greene, Madison, Montgomery and Preble counties.
Employees are hired for an eight-week stretch and eight-week extensions can be granted “until the work slows down to such a degree that we no longer need them,” Burns-Barrett said.
Although the census launches April 1, those who cannot start work until weeks or even months later are still encouraged to apply to be considered for positions toward the middle or end of the effort, she said.
“The most important thing that we need to remember is these are our communities,” Burns-Barrett said. “We select people in the community, that’s we’re they’re working because they’re more familiar with their community than anyone else and we need to make sure that every single person is counted once, only once, and in the right place.”
Positions are both part-time and full-time, with employees able to tell the census when they are available, she said. Available positions include clerks, census field supervisors and the ennumerators who go door-to-door asking census questions. Pay for positions is as much as $20 an hour.
Census takers also receive reimbursement for work-related mileage and expenses, where applicable. Hiring events for ennumerator, or census taker positons are scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 12 and on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at OhioMeansJobs-Butler County, 4631 Dixie Highway, Fairfield.
Eligibility requirements include having a valid email address, completing an application, answering assessment questions and being registered with the Selective Service System or have a qualifying exemption, if you are a male born after Dec. 31, 1959.
Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a valid Social Security number and be a U.S. citizen. Applicants also must pass a Census-performed criminal background check and a review of criminal records, including fingerprinting, commit to completing training and be available to work flexible hours, which can include days, evenings, and/or weekends.
Anyone who is interested is encouraged to apply.
“We’re trying to hire thousand and thousands of people, so the only way to get hired is to put your application in,” Burns-Barrett said.
Privacy concerns worry some
The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to keep your information confidential, according to census officials.
After much back-and-forth, no citizenship question will be on the census. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that question unconstitutional, Hector-Harris said. Still, she said, many minority groups are distrustful of what will be done with information they give.
“The Census Bureau is an organization that turns that information into statistics,” Hector-Harris said. “We don’t share information with the FBI, the CIA or any other government agency.”
Census workers take a lifetime oath of secrecy.
Why a complete count is important
According to a study from the George Washington University, each person not counted in Ohio is a loss of $1,800 per year for the state.
A correct population count is a way of getting back tax dollars that workers pay to the federal government, Hector-Harris said.
State population counts are used to determine how many seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives. Southern states and western states are expected to gain congressional seats after the 2020 Census numbers are finalized, according to census officials. The count also helps draw boundaries for congressional, state and local districts.
“Responding to the census is part of our civic duty,” Hector-Harris said.
Census totals help the federal government determine how much funding a state or local government should get for the next decade. An accurate count ensures funding for programs like Medicaid, highway spending and the SNAP program, formerly food stamps, are equitably distributed.
Problems with under-counting
Children are often under-counted, Hector-Harris said. Minorities, immigrants and renters are also under-counted, she added.
Since the population is only counted every 10 years, it is important that even infants are counted, said Hector-Harris. Children 0 to 5 years old are a critical age to count.
“If we don’t count a 4-year-old in 2020, the next time that kid can be counted is when he is a 14-year-old,” she said. “Hospitals that serve children, schools and other services for children won’t have the correct count.”
This can lead to critical services not having enough funding for the population that would use them. It can also put a strain on existing services in a community.
Businesses also determine where to build based off of census data, Hector-Harris said.
“People always moan and groan about businesses or restaurants not coming to their town, but if their town is accurately counted, they might be more likely to draw businesses,” she said. “When a new business comes, that’s jobs and revenue coming to the city.”
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