Archive for Thursday, March 11, 2010

Accurate 2010 Census important to Johnson County

March 11, 2010

In March, we kick-off the 2010 Census. Johnson County is partnering with the U.S. Census Bureau to assure an accurate count of our community.

The first national census took place in 1790 to determine the number of seats each state would have in the U.S. House of Representatives. Johnson County’s first official headcount occurred in the 1860 Census, with a population registered at 4,364. By 1960, our population hit 143,792. In the four decades that followed, our population increased more than fourfold. The 2000 Census set Johnson County’s official population at 451,086.

Our population now is estimated to be 545,000. The key word is “estimated.” That number may or may not be on target. Most people don’t understand the critical impact the Census can have on our community. Why is it so important?

Because the data collected by the Census Bureau determines important things.

First, and most importantly, it establishes the “official” population for the State of Kansas, and each of its counties and cities. Population determines how many congressional seats Kansas will have, which affects the State’s ability to influence and shape national policies.

Second, federal funding decisions are frequently based on population formulas. These federal funds support important programs, like school lunch programs, foster care, road construction and improvements, and unemployment insurance. Without an accurate count, we risk losing a significant amount of federal funds that contribute to the quality of life in this community.

More importantly, because the census is only conducted every ten years, Johnson County—and its cities—will be affected by the results of this year’s census for the next decade. Obviously, the census can dramatically affect both our state and local communities.

That’s why Johnson County Government will be doing its part to promote awareness about the 2010 Census. We’ve created a website where you can learn more about the 2010 Census which can be accessed from the County Government’s web portal at www.jocogov.org.

The Census Bureau will be mailing surveys to residents beginning March 15. Citizens can simply complete the form and return in the mail in a timely manner. If residents do not complete and submit the survey, a census representative will visit them beginning in late April through July.

If a Census representative comes to your door, they should first show you their official badge. They will only be asking ten simple questions regarding race, age, and number of people in the household. Census workers will not be asking for personal data, and that includes your Social Security number. You will be asked to show either your driver’s license or green card. None of your answers to the ten questions will be shared with anyone except certain federal agencies and specific law enforcement.

Supportive assistance will be provided to those that are not fluent in English, able to read, or hearing and seeing impaired. If you need any of these services or other services help, please feel free to contact your regional census center. They will be glad to help you in any way.

Again, the main objective of the 2010 Census is to get an accurate assessment of the state’s population, which will determine how Kansas is represented at the federal level and how much federal funding our community may qualify to receive. We want all citizens to be counted in this year’s census.

In 2000, our return rate in Johnson County was just 78 percent. The good news was that we achieved a greater response rate then the rest of the nation, at 67 percent, and even the rest of the State of Kansas, at 71 percent. The bad news is that 22 percent of our residents did not participate in the 2000 Census. We must do better this year.

Completing the Census form is fast, it’s easy, and it’s important to your community. And it’s our civic responsibility. This year, be sure you’re counted.

Annabeth Surbaugh is chair of the Johnson County Commission

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