The 2020 census helps your community

Lisa Egan, Latah County Library District

The 2020 census is happening now. This constitutionally mandated population count has taken place every 10 years since 1790 and is crucial to the economic and civic wellbeing 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 U.S. Census Bureau data. Without a complete count, Latah County could miss out on the opportunity to bring a fair share of that portion of 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 who Latah County is as a community. We won’t have another chance to tell our story for another 10 years, and 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, young children and residents of rural communities.

More than a year ago, the Latah County Library District formed the Latah County Complete Count Committee, made up of representatives from organizations throughout the county in an effort to disseminate information and increase awareness of the upcoming census. During the past year, the committee has been working closely with Mindy Thorp, U.S. Census Bureau partnership specialist representing North Idaho, to develop strategies to inform and motivate people to participate so that Latah County gets a “complete count” and all of the necessary funding for the continued growth and prosperity of our community. Success depends upon the residents of Latah County completing the census questionnaire.

The residents of Latah County can help inform the community about the importance of being counted. Help spread the word about the importance of the upcoming census to your friends, neighbors and colleagues. And, most importantly, complete the census questionnaire. For the first time ever, the eleven question form, which takes 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 have computers available for you to use. The information submitted is encrypted by the U.S. Census Bureau to protect personal privacy, so you can feel safe in registering online.

Your census responses are safe and secure. The U.S. Census Bureau is required by law to protect any personal information that is collected and keep it strictly confidential. The bureau cannot release your responses in any way that could identify you and will never share your information with immigration enforcement agencies, law enforcement, or to determine your personal eligibility for government benefits. The information cannot be used against you in any way; Title 13 ensures that the U.S. Census Bureau can only use your answers to produce statistics and allocate resources and funding accordingly. In fact, every bureau employee takes an oath to protect your personal information for life.

National Census Day was April 1, but the census continues. The short questionnaire can be completed until Sept. 30. Help shape the future of Latah County by ensuring that we get a complete count in 2020. Every response is crucial.

Lisa Egan is access services manager for the Latah County Library and chair of the Latah County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee.

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