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Every count matters in next year’s U.S. census

Matthew Lane • Sep 15, 2019 at 8:00 AM

KINGSPORT —  The next U.S. census is right around the corner, so you need to make sure you participate in this decennial event. After all, your community is counting on it.

Beginning in 1790, and taking place every 10 years since, the U.S. government is mandated by the Constitution to conduct a census — a population and housing count of all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and other island areas.

The results of the census determine the number of seats for each state in the House of Representatives, are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts and are used to distribute more than $675 billion in federal funds each year.

“Historically, it’s important,” said Kevin Flanary, a partnership specialist with the Philadelphia Regional Census Center working on census matters in Northeast Tennessee.

WHY YOU SHOULD PARTICIPATE

Flanary recently spoke to the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen about the upcoming census, what folks can expect to take place over the next year and why it’s important to participate. At the local level, a Complete Count Committee (CCC) will work to raise public awareness about the upcoming census and motivate residents to participate.

In addition to its legislative purposes, census data is also used to help make planning decisions within a community, such as where to provide services for the elderly, where to build new roads and schools and where to locate job training centers.

“More than $675 billion is dispersed based on the census results, so it behooves every community to have the highest count they can get,” Flanary said. “Money will be left on the table for districts and areas for anyone under-counted.”

Roughly $17.3 billion came back to Tennessee last year, and for every person not counted in the census, Flanary said, it costs the district anywhere from $400 to $1,000 per person. Which is why participating in the census is so important, he added.

THE CENSUS TIMELINE

For the first time, residents have more ways than ever to respond to the census, said June Iljana, media specialist for the Philadelphia Regional Census Center. You can do so online, by phone, by mail or when a census worker shows up at your door.

“Participating ... is easy, important and safe and should take just a few minutes to complete,” Iljana said.

U.S. census workers are currently out in the community double-checking residential addresses to make sure every household receives a census form in the mail. This work will continue through October with most households receiving a letter in March.

Then in the spring and summer of 2020, census takers will be hitting streets and visiting folks who don’t mail the form in. Iljana said the bureau’s goal is to get a complete and accurate count of everyone on April 1. The last day to respond to the census online is July 31.

By Dec. 31, 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau will announce the total population count for each state, then by March 31, 2021 the bureau will release local counts for each state, Iljana said.

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