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South Williamsport, PA
United States

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County Hall Corner: Senseless Census Avoidance

It is somewhat ironic that almost all national media sources are singularly focused on the presidential election to be held on November 4th, highlighting that it will have ramifications far into the next decade, yet hardly mentioning something that in many ways could have even an even bigger impact — the 2020 census. This decadal

It is somewhat ironic that almost all national media sources are singularly focused on the presidential election to be held on November 4th, highlighting that it will have ramifications far into the next decade, yet hardly mentioning something that in many ways could have even an even bigger impact — the 2020 census. This decadal event will have a tremendous significance on the country — as well as here in Lycoming County.

In federal assistance alone, 130 programs are distributed based on population. These include the National School Lunch Program, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Head Start, Medical Assistance Program, and programs related to adoption assistance, public housing funds, highway planning, and construction, water and sewage disposal systems for rural communities, rural business enterprise grants, assistance to firefighters, rural housing preservation grants, state wildlife grants, wildlife restoration, crime victim assistance, voting access for individuals with disabilities grants, and the list goes on and on.

And this is just the federal funds; it applies to state allocations as well. It has been estimated that the county loses approximately $2,000 in state and federal funding annually for EACH PERSON, who is not counted in the census. Think of that. Imagine a family of five who just decided they wanted to hide out and skip the census. That amounts to $10,000 that the county would not receive that they would otherwise be entitled to in government funding. Over the ten-year time until the next census, this would result in a loss of $100,000 of lost funding. All because the head of the home could not be bothered for ten minutes to fill out a simple form. And this same family would probably be the first to complain about increases in taxes and wondering why the government is not helping them more!

The census also impacts our representation in government. By law, there are 435 members of the House of Representatives in the U.S. Congress. The total population, whatever it will be, will be divided by 435, and districts will be redesigned nationwide to comply with those population density parameters. In 2000, each federal congressional district had 646,952 residents. In 2010 it was 710,767. Because of the increase, the new 12th Congressional District in Pennsylvania had to expand in area because the population in this area had gone down. It now includes not just Lycoming County but also portions of Bradford, Centre, Clinton, Juniata, Mifflin, Northumberland, Perry, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, and Wyoming counties. Fred Keller is a wonderful U.S. Congressman and represents us well as did Tom Marino before him, but we share Congressman Keller with fourteen other counties! If there is an undercount in the census, especially if there has not been a gain in the overall population, we may be sharing not just our federal congressman but also our state representatives over a much wider area. This would mean our representation is more spread out, and our local needs are competing over a much broader scope.

Yes, COVID has definitely been to blame for many of the census problems, but the deadline has been stretched to October 1st, and it now time to do your duty. Currently, Pennsylvania itself is just at 90 percent compliance. If Lycoming County is typical, this would mean that there are still at least hundreds if not thousands who have not responded to the census. There are no good reasons for not participating in the census, but two thousand reasons for doing so.

If you have NOT completed the census, stop reading, get on a computer and go to 2020census.gov and click on the “How to Respond” button. The site is very user-friendly. It will only take a couple of minutes to answer the dozen or so questions. If you have completed the census, ask friends or relatives if they have done so. If they admit they have not participated in the census, be good citizens, and implore them to do their civic duty. So much depends on it. Even one undercount in Lycoming County would have a ten-year impact to our area. Now is the time — log on and be counted!

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