Ozark subdivision construction

An August 2018 photo shows work vehicles lining both sides of Miramar Avenue in Ozark, where an entire subdivision of new houses is under development.

The 2020 U.S. Census is coming, and it will impact all of us. It will shape the distribution of political power and federal tax dollars for the next decade in the U.S. 

The U.S. Constitution requires that a census be conducted every 10 years to count every person living in the United States. Census Day takes place on April 1, once every decade; and the next Census Day for this decade is less than a year away.  On April 1, 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau will attempt to count approximately 330 million people in this country.  A complete and thorough count is vitally important. Each state, county, town and community will benefit if the census counts everyone.  Why? Because the census is much more than a head count. 

The results of the census will determine political representation, how congressional seats are allocated and how an estimated $800 billion of federal resources is distributed. Many decisions are affected by census numbers, including how much funding cities and states receive for things like education, health care, roads, schools, emergency services, and other public needs in local communities. Businesses also use census data to guide their decisions on where to build, where to invest, market and advertise. 

According to Missouri Foundation for Health, state health and education programs such as Medicaid, Medicare Part B, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), reproductive health programs, and community health centers are impacted. 

In 2016 alone, Missouri received more than $16 Billion through 55 federal spending programs guided by data derived from the 2010 census. The larger the population counted, the greater the share of federal dollars that will be available after 2020. The growth that Christian County has experienced since 2010 has been substantial, and it must be captured and documented for the good of the county.

If numbers are underestimated, what can we lose? Experts estimate that a drop of every 1 percent in count during the 2010 census cost Missouri approximately $75 million. In the last census, Missouri did not do well in counting all Missourians, and lost an estimated $150 million in 2015 for Medicaid funding alone due to undercounting. This is the fourth highest amount of lost funding of any state. 

With the 2020 census, come changes that could prevent an accurate and complete count. In 2020, the Census Bureau will encourage households to respond through an online portal. This could prove beneficial for some, but for those without access to broadband or internet services, or those uncomfortable with this method, it may be challenging. To help ease those challenges, community organizations and partners around the county are coming together to discuss solutions and plans to create more online access for Christian County citizens, and to help inform the county as a whole. 

According to the National League of Cities, the Census Bureau is also addressing any concerns about on-line data privacy and confidentiality, by working with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal cybersecurity experts to ensure that its systems are up-to-date with current threats, and their servers are the most secure within the federal government. The 2020 U.S. Census will also allow people to provide their responses over the phone for the first time. 

Challenges to getting an accurate count can be addressed if we prepare and educate ourselves. The benefits to all Missourians are enormous. If you have questions about the 2020 census, contact the Christian County Extension Center at (417) 581-3558 or email christianco@missouri.edu.

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