Census determines congressional seats down to community needs

The 2020 Census is fast approaching, and enumeration efforts have already been conducted in remote parts of Alaska and U.S. territorial islands. If you haven’t received an invitation to respond to the Census in the mail, never fear. The vast majority of residents and households will receive their first 2020 Census invitation March 12. That’s the day the self-response website will go live and it’s the first day you can self-respond.

For the first time, the preferred method to fill out the questionnaire is online. For those wary of submitting personal information on the internet, U.S. Census Bureau Senior Media Specialist Douglas Loveday assures respondents that confidentiality is a primary concern.

“Everything is designed, first, thinking about privacy and confidentiality,” he said. “That comes first. It’s all about keeping the data safe.”

This level of privacy even extends to other agencies, which only ever include statistical information with all identifying features removed. The federal government then uses Census Bureau data to distribute more than $675 billion to states and their communities annually.

“These distributions are completely related to the population,” Loveday said. “These numbers that we collect in 2020 are going to have an absolute correlation to the federal dollars coming back to Texas. But it’s more than just Texas because these are monies that trickle down to our neighborhoods and our communities.”

Census statistics also give communities insight to plan for residents’ needs in the coming years, including new roads, schools, and emergency services. Businesses even use data to decide where to expand.

“If a corporation wants to open a new manufacturing plant and needs a thousand employees, this data is critical for them to know where they’re going to have a workforce that’s maybe within a commute to this facility they’re going to have,” Loveday said.

The Census is primarily for determining how many representatives each state sends to Congress. It’s also used to redraw district boundaries in subsequent years.

“Folks think (Texas) might pick up a couple of seats,” Loveday said. “It’s very important for our representation at the national level and at the local level. States also use it to do their redistricting. It will impact school district voting and state senators and state reps as well.”

But all that depends on people participating in the process. You can learn more at 2020census.gov.

alex@thepicayune.com

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