Local committees strive for census participation


Official population counts help to ensure that communities get their fair share of government funding and representation.

How much a community receives increases or decreases based on that count.

“We have to get everyone to see how important this is,” said Joyce Fleck, who is working on a local committee geared at getting everyone to fill out the 2020 Census. “We have to show people how this count translates into funding for services they receive locally.”

Local leaders and influencers must tell their community why it is important for every person to be counted in the Census, said Jill Bond, a representative of the Census’ Chicago regional office, which covers several states including Indiana.

Bond met Wednesday morning with local people who are a part of count committees. Four committees are being formed: one each for Dubois County, Ferdinand, Huntingburg and Jasper. Members come from different specialty areas, such as eduction, health, business, social services, minorities, agriculture and media.

Each committee is working together to develop ideas and methods to spread the word about the 2020 Census and to encourage others to complete the form this spring.

“We want to do the 3 Es,” Bond said.” Engage, educate and encourage the public in participating in the 2020 Census.”

An official population count of everyone in the United States is done every 10 years.

Census day is officially April 1. But the start date at which people can fill out the census is a couple of weeks prior to that, in mid-March.

The actual form has 10 questions and takes about five to 10 minutes to complete. The information is confidential, and all official census staff are sworn by oath to never reveal any of the information. If they do, they will punished with federal imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, Bond said.

At Wednesday’s training session, people discussed ideas for encouraging people to fill out the form. They also talked about how to reach the hard-to-reach populations, like the homeless, people who may not speak English, and people between 18 and 24.

Other populations that are hard to reach and tend to be undercounted are college students, farm workers, immigrants, millennials, minorities, people below the poverty level, people with disabilities, refugees, renters, snowbirds, senior citizens and veterans.
The 2020 Census will be the first one in which people will be encouraged to fill it out online or over the telephone, Bond said. “People will receive a letter in the mail with a code (number) on it,” she explained.

The person can use that code to access the census form online or over the phone. While the code helps ensure that form is documented for the correct community, having a code is not necessary for someone to fill out the census, Bond said.

Committee members can help people access the census by setting up tables at public locations and providing computers and tablets where people can fill out the form on the spot. Committee members cannot help people fill out the census, Bond stressed.

A study done by George Washington University showed that communities in Indiana received about $1,600 per year for each person counted in the 2010 Census. That translates to $16,000 a community gained for each counted person over 10 years.

“And for each person who is not counted, that is money that is lost,” said Jasper Mayor Dean Vonderheide, who was at the training. “That is money that will not come to the community.”

Unfortunately, the trend has been that fewer people are participating in the census, Bond said. And the concern is that that trend will continue, especially with the recent negative publicity surrounding the 2020 Census.

That is why local count committees will be vital in this process, Bond said.

“You represent the trusted voices in your community,” Bond said. “When you share information, it will be more meaningful. Plus, you know your communities better than we do, so you can better engage with them.”

Each local committee has a head liaison. Those liaisons are Councilwoman Becky Beckman for Dubois County, Town Manager Chris James for Ferdinand, Office Manager Gina Flick for Huntingburg and Mayoral Assistant Lisa Bower for Jasper.

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