MIAMI COUNTY — As a new decade arrives, so does the need for a new United States Census.
As mandated in the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 2), a census is to be taken every 10 years to count all people — both citizens and noncitizens — living in the U.S., island areas and Puerto Rico. The first census was conducted in 1790 and has taken place every 10 years since then.
According to Richard Osgood, director of the Miami County Department of Development, participation in the census is crucial for several reasons.
“The challenge and the opportunity is to get as high of a count as possible,” Osgood said. “We want to be able to count everybody because it affects federal funding, representation, and several other things at the federal level.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the results of the census are used to reapportion the House of Representatives, determining how many seats each state gets.
Also, after each census, state officials redraw the boundaries of the congressional and state legislative districts in their states to account for population shifts.
In terms of funding, the distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities is based on census data. This money goes toward things like schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other programs.
Beginning in late February/early March, Osgood said, mailings will begin to be sent out to residents requesting their participation in the census. The mailings will include instructions for how to respond by mail, online or by phone.
After April 1, census takers will begin visiting households that haven’t responded, giving residents the opportunity to complete the census in person on an iPad.
To encourage a complete and accurate count, the Census Bureau has established the Complete Count Committees program. A CCC is a volunteer-based committee comprised of local government and community leaders or organizations, who serve as local “census ambassadors” by seeking to increase awareness and motivate residents to respond to the census.
According to Osgood, the Miami County Complete Count Committee will work to increase census participation of those in “at-risk” or hard-to-reach populations, including homeless, non-permanent and transient individuals, children, and those with mental health issues.
“Our county decided to convene representatives from each community, then each representative goes into their respective communities to reach those challenging populations,” Osgood said.
With the “children” category, Osgood said the existence of split households can occasionally hinder the results of the census.
“Each questionnaire asks for number of residents in the household and asks about children, so when you’ve got a split household, there may be some question about where the child stays permanently,” he said. “The Census Bureau is recommending that if you don’t know, say yes to the question asking if that person lives with you.”
Osgood said, thanks to technology, the Census Bureau can go through all of the data collected and if they find a duplicate — if, for instance, both parents of a split household answer “yes” to the permanency question — they can correct it.
“However, if neither parent answers because they think the other one is, then that child doesn’t get counted,” Osgood said.
Osgood noted the Census Bureau has about 80 positions available to assist with the 2020 Census, including both office and in-field positions. For more information, or to apply, call 1-855-JOB-2020.
For further information on the census, visit Census.gov.