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The 2020 Census is fast approaching, with fewer than 80 days 'till Census Day, April 1. The Hot Springs Local Complete Count Committee is working diligently to provide census education, assistance, and awareness to the community of Hot Springs. The local committee, as well as other committees around the nation, is tasked with informing their communities of the importance and benefits of everyone being counted once, only once, and in the right place.

The census count is mandated by the Constitution (Article 1, Section 2) that the United States conduct a count of its population once every 10 years. That count is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, which is a nonpartisan government agency. The 2020 Census will mark the 24th time the country has counted its population since 1790. The 2020 Census counts the population in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories.

This year is the first time there will be three different ways that you can choose to reply to the questionnaire: online, by phone, or by mail. Participating in the census is required. A complete and accurate count is critical for our community because it benefits all Hot Springs residents as well as all Arkansans. An undercount would adversely affect our community, because we would not receive adequate funding for the state's population for 10 years. That means everyone in the state would experience less than adequate funding and wouldn't have an opportunity to reverse things until the 2030 Census.

To ensure a complete and accurate count, the Census Bureau counts people at their usual residence, which is the place where they live and sleep most of the time. People who do not have a usual residence should be counted where they are on Census Day (April 1). If you have special circumstances where someone is currently staying at your home on Census Day, you will need to include them on your census questionnaire.

If you have children in your home, make sure they are counted in the right place.

The general rule is count children in the home where they live and sleep most of the time, even if their parents do not live there. If you've just had a baby, and your baby is still in the hospital on Census Day (April 1), then count your baby at the home where he or she will live and sleep most of the time. If children spend time in more than one home, count them where they stay most often. If their time is evenly divided, or if you do not know where they stay most often, count them where they are staying on April 1. If you are helping to take care of a friend's or family member's child, and the child does not have a permanent place to live, count the child if he or she is staying with you on April 1, even if it's only temporary.

The census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for you and your community. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, health care, transportation, economic development, Medicaid, SNAP, education, child care, free lunch, and affordable housing programs, as well as other resources based on census data. The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the data are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

Your census responses are safe and secure. The Census Bureau is required by law to protect any personal information that they collect and keep it strictly confidential. The Census Bureau can only use your answers to produce statistics. Your answers cannot be used for law enforcement purposes or to determine your personal eligibility for government benefits. By law, your responses cannot be used against you by any government agency or court in any way.

Your online responses are safe from hacking and other cyberthreats. The Census Bureau takes strong precautions to keep online responses secure. All data submitted online are encrypted to protect personal privacy, and their cybersecurity program meets the highest and most recent standards for protecting personal information. Once the data is received, they are no longer online. From the moment the Census Bureau collects responses, its focus and legal obligation is to keep them safe.

If you do not complete the census online, via phone, or on paper, someone will visit your home to collect information for the 2020 Census. You can verify their identity by checking that they have a valid ID badge, with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. If you still have concerns of their identity, you can contact the Census Bureau for verification.

The 2020 Census brings many opportunities to get involved in our community and they are recruiting thousands of people across the country to work on the 2020 Census. They invite anyone to apply, including retirees, college students, people who do not have a job and are looking for temporary employment, people already working who are looking for a second job, and people available to work flexible hours, which can include days, evenings, and/or weekends. These positions provide an opportunity to earn extra income while helping in your community.

In a continued effort to provide a greater understanding and awareness to the community, the Hot Springs Local Complete Count Committee is working on several projects with city and county officials, business owners, organizations, schools, colleges, community leaders, faith-based leaders, individuals, etc. to help spread the word. These projects include a Census Video Awareness Campaign that the seven school districts, Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts, National Park College, community leaders, etc. are currently working on, as well as informational meetings, and upcoming census parties.

If you would like to be a part of the effort to shape our community, you can contact District 3 Justice of the Peace Esther Dixon, chair of the Hot Springs Local Complete Count Committee, at 501-276-2121 for details.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau via 2020 Census Hot Springs Complete Count Committee.

Editorial on 01/12/2020

Print Headline: 2020 Census: The importance of being counted

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