COUNTING ON THE CENSUS Data collected helps communities in variety of ways

Paducah and McCracken County, like cities and counties all over the country, will be relying heavily on an accurate count in the 2020 Census.

Conducted every 10 years, the census counts populations and households, providing the basis for reapportioning congressional seats, redistricting, and distributing more than $675 billion in federal funds annually to support states, counties and communities' vital programs -- impacting housing, education, transportation, employment, health care and public policy.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the data collected is used in a variety of ways:

• Residents use the census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life and consumer advocacy.

• Businesses use census data to decide where to build factories, offices and stores, and these decisions help create jobs.

• State, local and federal government officials will use the census statistics to determine how to allocate and spend billions of dollars annually for critical public services, including hospitals, schools, roads and bridges, which in turn will generate opportunities for private sector businesses.

"Every day when you watch the news or read an article, you will find various statistics that use the U.S. Census data as a foundation," Paducah City Manager Jim Arndt said.

"For Paducah, we want to make sure that each and every person is counted. It's a snapshot in time for our community, but the data is used for a decade in determining how state and federal dollars are distributed for grants and programs."

West Kentucky Community and Technical College has been named a Census Partner for the 2020 Census.

"We know how important it is to achieve a complete and accurate count of our nation's population growth in 2020," WKCTC President Anton Reece said.

"In addition to it being a civic duty, helping to make sure everyone is counted in the census ensures that we have the right numbers when creating growth projections that may guide state and federal spending in the future."

According to a recent survey released by the Pew Research Center, around 84% of Americans "definitely or probably" plan to answer questions on the 2020 Census. The survey also found around 16% of people surveyed express some doubts about responding next spring.

The hesitancy in participating in the head count seems higher in black, Hispanic and low-income communities -- all of which have been either undercounted or considered hard to count in past censuses, according to the Associated Press.

The U.S. Census Bureau is predicting a self-response rate of 60.5% next year for the first decennial census in which respondents will be encouraged to answer the questions online, although they also can respond by telephone or a mailed-in paper form. Census Bureau workers will be sent out to interview in-person people who don't answer the questions on their own.

According to the Pew survey, there was a near universal awareness about the 2020 head count -- with 94% of respondents saying the census is very important or somewhat important for the nation.

"The new survey finds wide awareness about the census across all demographic groups," according to a Pew report on its survey.

The Pew survey found no differences between Democrats and Republicans regarding awareness and plans to participate. But there were differences in awareness and planned participation based on age, education level and income.

Age was a predictor of whether people said they would participate, with adults between 18 and 29 the least likely to participate of four age groups, according to the survey.

People with a bachelor's degree or higher, or incomes over $75,000, were more likely to have heard something recently about the census, the survey said.

The Kentucky Nonprofit Network is a member of a statewide coalition of nonprofit organizations encouraging residents of the commonwealth to participate in the census.

According to the network, infrastructure funding for roads and bridges is determined by census-derived data, as are statewide programs including health care coverage (Medicare Part B, CHIP and Medicaid); nutrition assistance (SNAP/WIC and school meals); education (Head Start, Title 1 and student loans and grants); housing (Section 8 and housing loans); and critical programs for children (foster care, adoption assistance and child care).

Kentucky receives approximately $15.8 billion per year in funding of 55 of the more than 300 federal programs using census data, according to the network. Those allocations account for at least $2,021 per Kentuckian. An undercount of just 1% of the state's population, or about 45,000 people, would cost Kentucky almost $91 million a year, according to Danielle Clore, Kentucky Nonprofit Network CEO.

"Each of our coalition partners brings on-the-ground connections to nonprofit organizations in local communities across Kentucky, and are specially focused on one or more of the populations who are traditionally hard-to-count," according to Clore.

"Nonprofits are uniquely qualified to help overcome potential barriers to a complete and accurate count. They are also keenly aware of the negative impact an incomplete count would have on their community and that many individuals will rely more heavily on nonprofits for services they typically receive through federally-funded programs.

"Given the downturn in charitable giving and other factors, nonprofits know that Kentucky simply cannot afford for the commonwealth to leave money on the table."

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