FRANKFORT, Ky. — A couple of months ago, you probably received a card in the mail inviting you to participate in the U.S. Census. If you are like me, you put it with other important mail and then promptly went on with your life. Just after that, you got a letter about the Census, followed by yet another letter. Maybe you finally got around to completing yours – I did – but if you have not, there is no time like the present to make sure you “count” in our state’s population.
You may remember from high school civics that the U.S. Constitution requires a census, really just an official national headcount, every ten years. It is a big task with an even greater purpose. The federal government uses census figures to determine how many congressional representatives each state gets, as well as how much of our federal tax dollars get returned to us. The data is used to determine funding levels for programs that serve Kentuckians across the state, such as schools, hospitals, infrastructure, parks, and disaster relief planning.
Kentucky currently receives approximately $15.8 billion per year in funding using census data. These allocations account for at least $2,021 per Kentuckian. An undercount of just one percent of our population or about 45,000 people, would cost Kentucky almost $91 million a year – and Kentucky would experience this loss for ten years. Remember, these are taxes you already pay. We are just talking about an opportunity to invest more of that tax money here.
The Census is available online, by mail, or by phone. I know that some folks view the Census as meddling and interfering. In reality, there are a handful of basic questions, including how many people live in your home and how old they are. It is important to note that the Census is safe to complete, and the information you provide will not be shared. The Census will not ask about your income, education level, political party, or Social Security numbers and will not affect any status of benefits.
Remember to include all family members when you complete the Census. Surprisingly a large number of families do not count children on their household’s census form, especially young children under age five. In 2010, an estimated more than 12,500 young Kentucky children did not get counted. This mistake cost the Commonwealth approximately $12 million per year in funding for five federally funded programs. I can tell you that there are many ways we could invest that estimated $120 million in our classrooms and universities.
The U.S. Census Bureau concludes most attempts to collect census numbers by August 14, 2020, as they will only have a few months left in the year to compile all the collected data and send off state population results to the President.
As you can see, the Census data impacts Kentucky in several different ways. So, take five minutes of your time to complete the questionnaire. For more information or to fill out the Census, please visit https://my2020census.gov.
As always, I can be reached through the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181 if you have any comments or questions. You can also contact me via e-mail at [email protected]. You can also keep track through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at legislature.ky.gov.