Get Ready To Get Counted

Get Ready To Get Counted
Census Mailings Due Out This Week

Rockbridge area government officials are urging local residents to not disregard the U.S. Census correspondence that should be arriving in their mail boxes starting this week.

The mailings are to include information about completing the 2020 census form either online via computer or smart phone, or by calling an 800 number. In mid-April, those residents who have not yet responded online or by phone will receive a census form in the mail.

Those who aren’t counted in the upcoming census will cost the Rockbridge area a significant amount of federal funding over the next 10 years that’s needed to pay for critical services.

“This is money for schools, early education programs like Headstart, fire departments, food and energy assistance programs, roads and bridges,” said Buena Vista City Manager Jay Scudder.

An accurate census count, said Lexington City Manager Jim Halasz, could mean an extra $784,000 in each of the next 10 years in federal funding for Lexington. Halasz arrived at this figure by taking the city’s estimated population increase of 392 since the last census count in 2010 and multiplying it by $2,000 per person that each individual will generate for the city.

“I can’t more strongly stress the importance of individual public participation in the 2020 census,” said Rockbridge County Administrator Spencer Suter. “The federal government uses census data to distribute over $675 billion to states each year. For every uncounted person, we risk losing up to $2,000 of federal funding - annually, for the next 10 years, which can help our state and local governments provide services to citizens.”

Census data plays a role in decennial redistricting for representation in the Virginia General Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives set to take place in 2021. The data is used to redraw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts.

There is no reason not to participate in the census count, emphasizes Rosanne F. Vrugtman, partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau who has addressed the local governing bodies and other Rockbridge area officials in recent weeks. Filling out the census forms, she said, “is easy, safe and important.”

It’s easy, she explained, “because this year the 10 questions can be completed online, by phone or by mail.” It’s safe “because all identifying information is stripped away and the remaining data is compiled and reported only as a composite number. Actual forms remain strictly confidential for 72 years.” It’s important “because federal funding for Virginia, local planning data, state redistricting decisions, and the assignment of [state legislators and congressional representatives] to our area all depend on a complete and accurate 2020 count.

“We only have these next few months to do a complete count that will impact the entire community for the next 10 years.”

Vrugtman said census workers are well compensated and are still needed in the Rockbridge area to ensure that the count is accurate and complete. Rockbridge County is in need of 128 applicants who are to be paid $15 an hour. Lexington needs another 172 applicants whose pay rate is to be $17 an hour. Nine more applicants are needed in Buena Vista, who are to be paid $13.50 per hour.

Anyone interested can apply online by going to 2020census. gov/jobs. All applications are online, though individuals may call 1-855-JOB-2020 for more information or to get help with applying.

Scudder notes that because Buena Vista has a preponderance of low and moderate income residents, it’s “more important for our community ... We have a high percentage of students on school meal programs today. So, please, folks, do everything you can to get the word out to stand up and be counted in the 2020 census.”

“The census is an extremely important activity that reflects on the financial well-being and quality of life in a community for years to come,” added Halasz.

Suter said the county’s population was undercounted by about 18 percent a decade ago. “I urge residents to help bring our fair share home,” he remarked. “We need to do everything we can to reach 100 percent in 2020.”

The News-Gazette

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