The United States Census Bureau is gearing up for next year’s decennial count and representatives in Greene County want to encourage everyone to fill it out. The census is what is used to determine representation in government and distribution of federal dollars.
Kathy O’Connell, partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau in Central Virginia, said census data helps guide the distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funding back to Virginia and its localities.
“We conduct the census once every 10 years so the data that is collected will impact your community for the next decade,” O’Connell said. “It is extremely important that we count everyone to ensure that Greene County is adequately funded and receives its share of federal resources for programs and services people need and use.”
Government representation is also guided by the numbers.
“Our state representatives, our districts, U.S. Congress all are all drawn based on this census,” said Jim Frydl, director of planning and zoning for Greene County.
Frydl said Virginia Department of Transportation road projects are mostly funded with federal dollars, as are schools.
“Counting accurately allows them to make sure that we get our share of the funds,” he said. “We’re paying it to the federal government, they’re giving it back to us in programs and if we don’t show up to be counted then somebody else gets our money. They want to give it back to us and they give it based on a percentage depending on who responds to the census.”
It’s not just the government that looks at those numbers. Retail businesses have a threshold before they’ll consider a location.
“There was a great story from over on the Eastern Shore years ago of an over-counting in the census that was published but later corrected,” said Greene County Administrator Mark Taylor. “But, in the meantime Walmart had made a site decision … and the Eastern Shore of Virginia got a Walmart which I don’t think they would have gotten but for the oops of the census counting.”
O’Connell said the decennial census only asks 10 questions, including age, gender, race or ethnicity.
“Depending on how many people live in your household, it should take less than 10 minutes to complete,” she said. “We do not ask for your social security number or income. All census responses are protected under federal law and can only be used to produce statistics. All census employees take a lifetime oath of confidentiality to protect your personal information.”
Frydl said one of the biggest myths is that the census doesn’t really matter and Taylor agreed.
“If you’re not part of the total, you’re not part of the total. And this is one thing where it could hurt the county for size does matter,” Taylor said. “We’re small. And even with a complete count, we have every confidence we’re still going to be small; this headline is not going to be Greene surpasses Loudoun and nobody wants it to be. But we need a complete count, so that we can go forward with reality in mind.”
“This is a good check point on all the projections that we based everything off, it’s a good place to readjust the rudder if the projections are different than what everybody predicted 10 years ago,” Frydl added. “Right now, for example, nobody really knows what the population in Greene County is because it hasn’t been counted since 2010.”
This will be the first year citizens can respond to the census online, by phone or by a paper questionnaire.
“Each household should complete one census form, being sure to include everyone who lives there,” O’Connell said. “The sooner you complete your form, the better —and the less likely a census taker will come to your door.”
People may begin to respond beginning January 2020. Deadline is April 1, 2020 and if not received census takers will begin knocking on doors.
The Census Bureau is hiring locally to assist with the census. To learn more about how you or your organization can help with complete count efforts, contact Kathy O’Connell at email@example.com or (434) 466-7893. Visit www.2020census.gov for more information or to sign up for updates.