Millions of dollars could be at stake, and that’s why some of Christian County’s top leaders are set to encourage everyone to participate in the 2020 U.S. Census.
Christian County Engagement Specialist Pam Duitsman of University of Missouri Extension presented some census facts to the Christian County Commission, along with a request to help drive participation.
“The census is going to be an issue this next year because we can lose a lot of money and support if we don’t get a full count,” Dr. Duitsman said.
In the last U.S. Census, Missouri dropped from nine Congress members in the U.S. House of Representatives to eight. It also lost its share of the approximately $675 billion Congress allocates each year for federal and state projects.
“For every one percent (of the population) that we undercounted, we lost $75 million in 2010. These are things that we don’t want to reoccur. Missouri really didn’t do a great job in 2010. For Christian County, it is even more important because we’ve had so much growth and we are such a high growth area,” Duitsman said.
April 1, 2020 marks the start of the U.S. Census. In 2010, Christian County’s population was found to be 77,422 by the Census Bureau. As of 2018, the population was estimated to be almost 87,000. The 2020 census offers the best chance at a hard count of what is projected to be record growth.
According to the Missouri Office of Administration, Christian County is the fastest growing county in the state by population percentage, and the fourth fastest growing county in the state by numeric population gain.
Christian County Presiding Commissioner Ralph Phillips supported University of Missouri Extension’s call for everyone to take part in the census.
“I can’t emphasize enough the importance of this census to our county in particular because of our growth. We qualify for what they refer to as a saturated census. It’s very, very important that we start getting the word out—yesterday—to everyone you know,” Phillips said.
While some are skeptical or reluctant to participate, Phillips said the census is vital for highway projects and other funding for Christian County.
“I hear stories about, ‘Well, the government doesn’t need to know my business,’ and this, that and the other. This has nothing to do with that. This has to do with funding for our community, and it’s so important for us,” Phillips said.
Identifying information such as names and social security numbers are left out of census data collection, according to the Census Bureau.
Census goes online this time
The days of a census packet being mailed to your home, filled out and returned by mail are over. Everyone will receive a postcard in the mail directing citizens on which website to visit in order to participate in the census.
“The census is going to be done differently, there are going to be some challenges to the census in that it’s the first high tech census that has occurred. They are going to drive people to the internet to put in their information online,” Duitsman said.
University of Missouri Extension is working with the Christian County Library to help with the census program. Citizens who don’t have reliable internet access or who are uncomfortable using computers will be able to visit the Extension office in Ozark or any of the libraries in Christian County for assistance.
“We all know that we have broadband issues and access issues—seniors and underserved people who are uncomfortable doing that sort of thing, and so that’s why we really need to work across the entire county to make sure that we help to provide as much access and help with this as possible,” Duitsman said.
Duitsman said that the U.S. Census also lacks funding to send canvassing workers door-to-door in search of data that may have been missed.
“Really it’s going to take the entire community to come together and make it happen,” Duitsman said.