The 2020 Census is fast approaching, and community leaders want to make sure Boone County gets represented fairly.
“There’s a lot at stake when your county is only counted once every 10 years,” Mayor Brian Treece said at a news conference aimed at promoting participation in the census.
The 2020 Census will be the first census where residents can respond online. The public will be sent paper census forms but can choose to respond online in March. Census Day is April 1.
At the 8 a.m. news conference Friday at the Daniel Boone City Building, city and county officials outlined the reasons why getting a full and accurate count of the population is important.
“Data drives our democracy,” Treece said. “Data drives decisions.”
The data from the census is used for a myriad of government programs and private ventures.
The distribution of $675 billion of federal funds to states, counties and communities is based on census data. In fiscal 2015, 132 federal programs used census data to distribute funding, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The results of the census are used to reapportion the U.S. House of Representatives to ensure each state gets the correct number of representatives in Congress.
Additionally, private businesses use census data to determine where to build factories, retail stores, offices and other things that create jobs.
“Needs are not funded. Numbers are funded,” said Emmett Morris, a partnership specialist for the state of Missouri whose job it is to promote census participation.
In the past two censuses, 77% of households in Boone County responded to initial inquires, Treece and Morris said. This is higher than the national average of 74%. To improve the count, after initial inquiries, census workers follow up with households that have not responded and continue accepting responses.
Some groups are easier to count than others.
City leaders said getting students to complete the census was a concern. Many students from other parts of the state or country, they said, don’t know whether to complete their census forms in Columbia or their hometowns. Treece and Morris said that everyone should complete the census where they live most of the year. For most students, that’s Columbia.
Treece also said students’ living situations sometimes make the census difficult. He said that many apartments have three or more students living in them, but only one student is on the lease. Those apartments often get mistakenly entered as one student.
Accurately counting senior citizens and children younger than 5 is also challenging. The Census Bureau emphasizes that babies should be counted on census forms, even if that baby is still in the hospital April 1.
Additionally, if anyone is looking for seasonal employment, Morris said the Census Bureau is looking for workers to go door to door reminding people to fill out their census forms as well as other tasks. Those interested can call (855) 562-2020.