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Census packets coming in March

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SALYERSVILLE – We’re only a couple months away from receiving United States Census packets in the mail, so now is the time to brush up on the importance of the federally-mandated survey.

The census has been around since 1790 and is held every 10 years to get an up-to-date count of the country’s population. While people generally don’t like divulging personal information to strangers, by law this information is kept completely confidential and the local community’s future is depending on the numbers’ accuracy.

While the questions may seem like Uncle Sam is getting a little too invested on our daily lives, the information is actually used to make sure the infrastructure around us is paralleling the community’s needs.

Over $675 billion of federal funds is distributed annually based on the demographics uncovered by the census, with even more money dispersed from the state level. If only 50 percent of Magoffin participates in the census, this community will receive only half of the funding it would have been eligible for if the count had been correct.

These numbers are used to plan for the needs pertaining to hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and the location of other health services. Maps for emergency services are created with the census data. Programs for adult education, economic development, low-income or poverty assistance, and other subsets of the population are all determined by the census.

On top of funding distribution, local, state and federal legislative districts are determined by the census, so if an area has poor participation in the census, that area will be under represented at all decision-making levels, with legislation, assistance during natural disasters, and overall representation being inadequate for the community not just for a year or two, but for at least 10 more years.

While all that may sound a bit removed from Magoffin County, the fact is the Magoffin County Fiscal Court, the Salyersville City Council, Magoffin County Health Department, and the Magoffin County Schools all receive funding and assistance dependent on the statistical data from the census. A poor census turnout doesn’t just hurt someone a million miles away; it could keep local road repairs from being a priority. It could close local health departments and clinics. It could keep our schools from receiving grant funding to keep up with STEM curriculum used throughout the state. Simply put, we would only hurt ourselves by not filling out the packet. 

Of those underrepresented in the last census, children under the age of 5 were the lowest age group reported to the census in 2010, with over one million children not counted. That means programs catering to the youngest population group, like HANDS, Head Start, and WIC, just to name a few, more than likely have been underfunded for the past 10 years. 

If you’re unsure how to count someone, for instance, if they are in a temporary living situation, you can either consider where that person spends most of their nights, or if it is completely split, where that person stays on Census Day, which is April 1. 

Also important to note, newborns should be counted, even if the baby is only days old when the family receives their packet. If the child is alive on April 1, count him or her! This is important for determining the needs of services to newborns.

The packets go out in the mail on March 12, and people will be able to either send it back in via the mail, fill it out online, or talk to someone in person or on the phone. The survey takes about 10 minutes. If you only have a post office box, you will not receive a packet in the mail, but census workers will be out canvassing the communities during the month of June.
 

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Heather Oney

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