The 2020 census is less than a year away. This constitutionally mandated, once-a-decade population count has taken place every 10 years since 1790 and is crucial to the economic and civic well-being of Idaho and Latah County. Results of the census are used to determine how many legislative seats Idaho receives, where congressional and state legislative district boundaries are drawn, and to assist with vital community planning.

Essential services affected by census results include roads, schools, emergency services and hospitals. Each year the federal government will distribute $675 billion to states and communities based on Census Bureau data. Without a complete count, Latah County could miss out on the opportunity to bring an accurate portion of that funding to the area for the next 10 years.

In the 2010 Census, Latah County had one of the lowest response rates in the 10 northern counties of Idaho. That translates into less federal funding and an inaccurate story of what Latah County is as a community. In order to accurately represent the residents of Latah County in the census, we need a complete count. That’s why we need to spread the word about the census and the importance of everyone being counted, while making a concerted effort to reach typically undercounted populations, such as senior citizens and young children.

The Latah County Library District has taken a lead role by forming a Complete Count Committee made up of representatives from organizations throughout the county, in an effort to disseminate information and increase awareness. At the library, we have been working closely with Mindy Thorp, the U.S. Census Bureau partnership specialist representing Northern Idaho (, (208) 981-1164), to develop strategies to inform and motivate people to participate. But we can’t do it alone.

The residents of Latah County can help. Encourage members of civic organizations to join us in our efforts. Spread the word about the importance of the census to your friends, neighbors and colleagues. Attend events in your community. And, most importantly, complete the census questionnaire beginning April 1, 2020.

For the first time ever, the eleven question form, which should take only about 10 minutes to answer, will be available online, by phone, as well as by mail, making it easier than ever to complete. If you want to complete it online but don’t have a computer, all seven of the Latah County libraries will have computers available for you to use.

The information submitted is encrypted by the Census Bureau to protect personal privacy, so you can feel safe in registering online.The Census Bureau is required by law to protect any personal infor­mation collected and to keep it confidential. The information cannot be used against you in any way; Title 13 ensures that the Census Bureau can only use your answers to produce statistics and allocate resources and funding. In fact, every Census Bureau employee takes an oath to protect your personal information for life.

This once-a-decade opportunity will be here before we know it. Help shape the future of Latah County by ensuring that we get a complete count in the spring of 2020.

Lisa Egan is the access services manager for the Latah County Library District.

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