Crunch time for the census
With deadline extended to Oct. 31, residents can still fill out U.S. Census online
By Cory Smith | on October 13, 2020
With less than a month left to count each resident of Montcalm and Ionia counties, census workers are urging people to make an effort to fill out their census information before it’s too late.
Last month, with the deadline for the U.S. census set to expire Sept. 30, a federal judge granted another month allowing people to be counted, with the deadline now Oct. 31.
The once-a-decade headcount of every U.S. resident is used to not only determine numerous government items — such as the number of U.S. Congressional seats Michigan receives — but also how much in annual aid communities receive.
According to United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties Executive Director Terri Legg, this year’s U.S. census results are as important as ever, as rural areas often go undercounted.
“Without even realizing it, the census can shape many aspects of our community. Things like health clinics, fire departments, schools, our local roads, and highways receive funding based on census data as do wildlife habitat restoration programs and many, many more programs,” she said. “The population reported in this census will impact the funding that is received in our community for the next 10 years.”
According to Legg, in Montcalm County, one in four children is considered “food insecure,” meaning that one out of every four children “leave school not knowing when or where their next meal will come from.”
“Many of our local schools offer free and/or reduced-price lunches and universal free breakfast for all children,” Legg said. “The meals offered by our schools are paid for in part by the funding received that is directly taken from the census. If our census count is not accurate, we are not able to access all the funding that would be available.”
Legg said for every person counted on the census, that comes to $1,800 in federal funding coming into a community, per year.
As of Oct. 8, about 69% of the county had completed the census in Montcalm County, and 76% in Ionia County.
While those numbers are higher than the completion rates of the census taken in 2010 (67% and 73% respectively), Legg said they are still inadequate.
“We initially think that sounds like a great response rate, but it also means that 30% of our community has not been counted,” she said.
With approximately 63,888 residents in the county, 30% equates to 19,166 residents not being counted.
Over a period of 10 years, at $1,800 per person per year, that’s $344,988,000 not coming into the county in federal aid.
“That is a lot of breakfast and lunches for food-insecure children,” Legg said.
Greenville Public Schools Superintendent Linda Van Houten also stressed the importance of making sure every person is counted.
“The census is critical to the programming of our schools,” she said. “Many support systems we put in place are funded through grants from the federal and state government. These grants are directly impacted by the census which determines the amount of money that will be provided to provide ongoing opportunities for our students.
Van Houten said these supports directly impact the school district’s most at-risk population, who she said struggles daily with learning.
“Without this support, we will see significant reductions in the area of interventions, mental health, and professional development that will negatively impact our students,” she said. “We need everyone to complete the census in order to maintain the current levels of funding in order to directly help our students. Please fill out the census.”
Belding Area Schools Superintendent Brent Noskey echoed Van Houten’s concerns.
“Making sure all Belding people are counted by the Census Bureau is highly important,” he said. “There are many resources and dollars tied to what our population is here in Belding, so I encourage all out there who have not yet filled out your census data to do so before the end of October. It does make a big difference in our community.”
As a result, Legg is asking that residents make one final effort to ensure they are counted, as due to the coronavirus, door-to-door census takers have not been able to do their job in a traditional format this year.
With people needing to self-report, they can do so at www.2020census.gov.
“Census reporting is confidential. There are a lot of rumors about the census. Every person counts,” she said. “That means that every individual located in your home today counts even if they are not a U.S. citizen. Census information is not given to ICE, the FBI or the IRS. All information provided in the census is kept confidential. Your Social Security number, bank accounts, political party affiliation, and requests for monetary donations are not asked for.”