Next year, Portage County residents along with the rest of the county will be asked to answer a few short questions.
The completeness of the response and the answers will drive a dizzying array of governmental decisions, including how many seats Ohio gets in the House of Representatives, according to Faye Nicholson, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau who spoke recently to the Aurora Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.
The number of Ohioans responding to the Census, which will be counted next year, also will determine how much of the federal funding pie the state receives.
"It impacts infrastructure, your roads, your buildings; it impacts health and human services; it impacts lunch programs, and Title 1 services for education, as well," said Nicholson.
She said Census data also feeds into emergency planning, so agencies can determine how many resources are needed in certain areas. It also forms the basis of funding for senior programs, housing decisions, mental health and addition recovery services, community development block grant funding, funding for Section 8 housing, and more.
"The Census Bureau delivers statistical information only to the President of the U.S. by Dec. 31, 2020," said Susan Licate, a media specialist with the Census Bureau. "It’s what our legislators use to determine how funds are distributed back."
Nicholson said personal information is not released initially.
"Your information is protected for 72 years," she said. "People go online and do genealogical research; you can go see Census data up to 1940.
According to 2020census.gov, the Census takers will ask:
• How many people are living or staying your home on April 1, 2020;
• Whether the home is owned or rented;
• About the sex of each person in your home;
• About the age of each person in your home;
• About the race of each person in your home;
• About whether a person in your home is of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin;
• About the relationship of each person in your home.
According to Nicholson, people living in the U.S. will not be asked whether they are legal citizens.
The Census Bureau is still hiring census takers and people for other positions to help next year, and the groundwork is being done to offer residents the chance to report their data via phone or website, said Nicholson. Those who do so will not have a census taker knock on their door next year.
This fall, workers are trying to make sure everyone is counted next year. Nicholson said college students are counted in their primary residence, whether that’s in a college town because they live there year round or in their hometown. The bureau checks and double checks to insure people aren’t counted more than once.
Participation in the decennial count, said Nicholson, is not optional.
"It is a mandate in the U.S. Constitution," she said. "No one has been prosecuted or gone to jail since the 1950s, but we do ask people to respond ad participate because it’s your civic duty."
For more information about the 2020 Census, visit 2020census.gov.
Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, email@example.com or @bobgaetjens_rpc.