HUDSON VALLEY – Every 10 years, residents across the country must fill out a census form, but what is the census exactly? The U.S. Census is a population count that has been taken every decade since 1790 by the Census Bureau to ensure that the people will get the fair representation from the government they need and that the government will provide the people what they need in return.
Forms are filled out confidentially and are typically sent to one’s address, but for the first time since the census was administered, residents have the option of filling out the form online.
Once collected, the bureau uses the data to measure the size of congressional districts; transportation needs for all segments of the population; the location of health services such as nursing homes and clinics; and the annual allocation of $675 billion in federal funds to national, state and local government programs.
John Penney, communications specialist for Dutchess County, explained why filling out the census is necessary.
“The community gets hurt,” he said. “Missing people leads to gaps in funding. If only 28,000 out of 40,000 people in a municipality fill out the census, it could mean allotting less grant money than the town needs.”
Still not convinced?
Penney explains that the census typically must be filled out by April 1. If you haven’t filled out the census form by then, you will receive letter reminders in the mail and local field workers will knock on your door encouraging you to do so.
“It’s a hassle to have someone knock on a door,” he said. “It’s easier to just fill out the form.”
Penney is the head of the Dutchess County Complete Count Committee, a group of 15 local leaders that are looking to do outreach and encourage all county residents to fill out the form.
During the last census, 77 percent of Dutchess County residents sent in their completed forms.
According to the Census Hard to Count Map for 2020, which divides counties into population clusters known as tracts, 14 out of the 79 tracts in Dutchess County had a 73 percent or less response rate.
Poughkeepsie appears to be a critical area, with a zero to 60 percent response rate last time. Other hard-to-count areas include Dover, Beacon, and Wappinger.
For the committee, these areas (known as hard-to-count areas) will be the ones to focus on. A hard-to-count area is typically indicative of low-income populations, who often face barriers such as working multiple jobs and living in large housing complexes.
Expect forms to be sent out and available online sometime in mid-March. The date varies across the country. To check when to expect the census to be sent out and made available online, visit https://2020census.gov/en/ways-to-respond