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The new coronavirus has scrambled the plans of many people and institutions. One with special importance is the once-a-decade U.S. Census, the constitutionally mandated count of all those living inside this great country.
Field work — the iconic Census worker going door-to-door with a pad or electronic tablet — has been delayed by months. Deadlines for reporting early numbers have been pushed back.
All of this makes good sense. All of this is for the best.
But the Census itself, and its importance, cannot be forgotten. Indeed, it’s more important than ever as we assess the damage that has been wrought by the virus and our attempts to corral it by shutting down broad swaths of our society.
Think of it this way — the public health threat posed by the coronavirus may last for an extended period. But it will likely not last for 10 years. The decisions based on the 2020 Census will endure far longer. As we have noted before, these population numbers are used to determine how federal dollars are allocated to states and localities. They are used to determine Congressional representation. They are used to paint an enduring picture of a place.
The picture will persist after COVID-19 has become merely an unpleasant memory. And that’s why it’s crucial to play your part and make sure you, your family and your friends have filled out the Census form. If you haven’t yet, now’s the time to do so.
As the Kansas Counts Census effort has repeatedly pointed out, “If 1% of the Kansas population is uncounted in the 2020 Census, the state of Kansas could miss receiving approximately $603,990,400 in federal funding over a 10-year period.”
Those are federal funds that will be absolutely essential to rebuilding our state and its residents as we emerge from the coronavirus-fueled economic turmoil. And receiving them, and making them work correctly, depends on each and every one of us doing his or her part.
The good news is that Kansans have already been stepping up and doing their civic duty.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, our current self-response rate is 56.6%, outpacing the national self-response rate of of 51.8% (you can follow along as the numbers change here. That’s great news, but we all still have a long way to go in ensuring that every single Kansan is counted.
Be safe, wash your hands, stay indoors when you can. And fill out the Census.