April 1 marked one year until Census Day 2020. Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a census to count the number of people living in the United States. The results of the census have an extraordinary impact on every community in our nation. The census will determine how many representatives each state sends to the U.S. House of Representatives, how state legislative districts are drawn, how funding is distributed to communities and much more for the next decade.
This monumental undertaking — the counting of hundreds of millions of people — can only be accomplished with help from each and every member of the community.
According to the Census Bureau, $675 billion in federal funding is dispersed to communities each year. This money is allocated based on census data and a portion of the money enters Summit County as Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). The funds are provided using a formula, and a key consideration in this formulation is population.
This funding source provides communities with financial resources to address a wide range of unique development needs. Locally, CDBG funds support domestic violence victim programs, fair housing promotion, homeless prevention and more. These programs and others funded by CDBGs provide critical services to residents of Summit County and, in many instances, are supporting the foundation for the ongoing economic redevelopment in our community.
Summit County cannot afford to lose even $1 from this funding source or similar state-level sources that also use census data to determine distribution. A complete census count of the county will help ensure crucial federal and state funding continues to flow into our community.
Equally important to the continued progress of the county is fair representation in the federal and state legislative bodies. The 2020 census results will be used to reapportion the U.S. House and determine the number of seats granted to each state. The results will also be used by state officials to redraw the boundaries of Ohio’s congressional and state legislative districts.
At a time when local government is receiving less and less monetary support from our counterparts in Columbus and Washington, we cannot afford to lose a single representative at either level. Our representatives give us a voice in the most important conversations that take place in our state and nation. We must make sure we continue to be heard. A complete census count of the county will help keep our voice at the forefront of conversations in Congress and the General Assembly.
To aid in the 2020 census efforts, Summit County, in partnership with the city of Akron, has formed a Complete Count Committee (CCC). The mission of the CCC is to increase the census self-response rate for households in the county. This volunteer committee, comprised of local leaders from government, education, business, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and more, will serve as a “census ambassador” in our community. The committee will pull together the collective knowledge of each member to design and implement a census awareness campaign specific to our community.
The efforts of the CCC will play an integral part in ensuring a complete and accurate count of the county. The CCC cannot go it alone, however. We need the help of every resident in every community in Summit County.
Residents of the county can contribute to the 2020 census campaign in a few simple ways. First and most important, each and every resident can and should respond to the census online, by phone, or by mail. All responses to the census are confidential and protected by federal law.
Second, county residents can participate in CCC-sponsored activities. As we move closer to Apr. 1, 2020, the CCC will organize a number of events to increase awareness and maximize participation and response rates. We will need the community’s help to get the word out. Residents can also help by discussing the census with friends and family and sharing census information on social media.
Third, residents can join the official 2020 census team. The Census Bureau is currently hiring local residents to help ensure a complete count. Visit www.2020census.gov/jobs to view the opportunities available in our community.
The stakes of the 2020 census are high, but simple actions on the part of each member of our community will have a resounding effect. Summit County, we’re counting on you.
Shapiro is the Summit County executive.