Area prepares for census

Outside the politics of congressional districting and representation in Washington D.C., the 2020 Census has local funding and planning implications.

“This is for the people, by the people,” said Steve Anderson, of Whipple, who is working as a recruiter for the 2020 Census team. “The first census was in 1790. And the reason it was initiated was that the new federal government wanted to find out (state) populations to figure out what each state owed for the federal debt following the Revolutionary War.”

Washington County Commissioner David White said Wednesday that the county is still gathering a count committee to promote participation in all of the municipalities and townships, an undertaking headed by Department of Job and Family Services Directive Flite Freimann.

“I think it’s going to happen more like an ad-hoc committee that would have the commissioners’ blessing but we haven’t gotten into the details yet,” said White.

He noted that not only would county employees be invited to sit on that committee in the coming months, but so would regional leadership like that of Buckeye Hills Regional Council and interested municipal leaders.

Anderson is working this summer to aid the U.S. Census Bureau in hundreds of hires of census takers throughout southeast Ohio. They’re also called numerators, mappers and field supervisors.

Training for the work begins this summer to prepare for the count next spring.

“Census day starts April 1,” said Anderson, noting the part-time (up to 30 hours per week) jobs will last through Dec. 31, 2020. “These folks that work on counting are a part of history…you will work in the county you live in.”

Anderson explained that the count affects not only congressional representation for the next decade, but also impacts federal funding to counties and municipalities, school systems.

It will also affect emergency preparedness planning and even development initiatives the opportunity zone tax breaks.

But it is predicted that 70 percent of residents across the nation will ignore when that survey arrives in the mailbox.

“We want every last dime for our community,” he said. “That’s why we want numerators counting in the counties where they live. They’ll be in their own communities with their neighbors so they can encourage everyone to participate and help their neighbors fill out the survey.”

Marietta City Council has begun to discuss the impact of census numbers on its federally funded programs this year, following a drop in Community Development Block Grant funding this year due to a loss in population estimate and the offer from Felix Burrows, of Marietta, to build a city-specific outreach program modeled after his work with the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010 for community engagement.

“We all have to be in the same boat now,” said Burrows. “The bottom line of this whole thing is that every man, woman and child has a right to be counted (because) approximately $2,000 of federal money will go to the cities where for a person that is counted. If we miss 50 people in Marietta, that’s $100,000 per year for 10 years the city loses out on.”

Council President Josh Schlicher said he talked with a census representative Tuesday as well about the count and is planning to schedule an educational session as a committee of the whole soon.

School systems like Marietta City Schools are also keeping an eye on the coming numbers.

“Our dynamics from 2010 to 2020 have changed dramatically,” said Frank Antill, treasurer of the school system. “Poverty counts are the biggest factors for Title I money, and our poverty levels have increased.”

Superintendent Will Hampton said with an increase in children living below the federal poverty level, there’s an increased need in class reduction in early elementary grades to provide more support for students.

“The government does recognize that it’s more expensive to educate those in poverty, they come with fewer supports and experiences that we then are called to provide,” he said. “Right now we have less of a middle class (than in 2010) either from those families struggling more now or because the middle class moved somewhere else.”

Antill said the federal count also can play into special education funding.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

Apply to be a census taker:

• Visit 2020census.gov/jobs.

• Starting wage is $14.50 per hour, with available work for up to 30 hours per week through the end of 2020.

• Field employees will be reimbursed for authorized work expenses like mileage while conducting 2020 Census work.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau.