By Victoria Loe Hicks
Would you trade 10 minutes of your time for more than $18,000?
What if those 10 minutes would mean that your children’s school could hire the additional teachers and install the protective equipment it needs to reopen safely? Or that your EMS department got to buy a badly needed new ambulance? Or that your medical clinic could do more to help people addicted to opioids? Or that the county transportation department could schedule additional trips to get you where you need to go?
Money to do all those things – and dozens of others that determine what it is like to live here in Yancey and Mitchell counties – depend on how many people complete the census. For every resident that fails to answer the simple questionnaire, the county will lose more than $1,800 a year for the next 10 years, or a total of over $18,000.
“The census affects every aspect of public service as well as COVID funding,” said Jeff Howell, the director of emergency services for Yancey County. “The more folks we have living and working in Yancey County determines the number of ambulances, EMS workers, fire departments, etc. that are needed.”
“Our federal and state grants both are allocated by the census,” said Sheila Blalock, director of transportation for Mitchell County. “Our funding is not based on performance but on population.”
Also, the Dogwood Health Trust is offering counties in Western North Carolina $1,000 for every percentage point increase in census participation above the level of 2010.
And here’s another reason to either mail in the paper form, answer the questions by phone, or complete the census online: If you don’t, a census taker will come to your house. And, if you’re like most people, that’s something you’d like to avoid. (See below for details on how to complete the questionnaire.)
Perhaps you don’t like to share information about yourself with government agencies. That’s understandable. But, by law, that information can be used only to compile the huge, anonymous sets of numbers that determine how money and political representation are distributed.
It is a crime for any census employee to share information about any person with another individual or group, even within the government. That includes law enforcement, the IRS, or the immigration service. A census employee who breaks the law can be fined up to $250,000 and go to prison for as long as five years.
At last count, the response rate in both Mitchell and Yancey counties was lower than in the state or nation as a whole. As a result, people in our counties pay state and federal taxes at the same rates that people in other places do, but they receive fewer benefits in return. Also, because census numbers are used to determine how many federal and state representatives each area gets, our counties have less political clout than they deserve.
The only way to fix that is to make sure every resident gets counted. To help make that happen, SEARCH (Sustaining Essential and Rural Community Healthcare) is working to get the message out to all residents of Yancey and Mitchell counties.
There are three ways to respond:
- Online at my2020census.gov
- By phone at 844-330-2020
- By mail by returning the questionnaire mailed to your home to
U.S. Census Bureau
National Processing Center
100 Logistics Avenue
Jeffersonville, IN 47144
Here are all the things asked on the census form:
- How many people live in your home
- How they are related to each other
- Whether you own or rent your home
- Whether it is a house, an apartment, or some other type of home
- Your phone number (only used if the census needs to contact you to clarify one of your answers)
- The name, age, birth date, sex, and race(s) of each person, and whether or not they are of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin
There is NOT a citizenship question.
The census happens only once every 10 years. Do your part now, and you won’t have to deal with it again until 2030.
Victoria Loe Hicks is a retired journalist living in Mitchell County. She is a member of a SEARCH Outreach effort to encourage people to complete the census.
You can read more Good News HERE.