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Work Is Underway To Make Sure Everyone Is Counted In The 2020 Census

U.S. Census Bureau

As the U.S. Census Bureau prepares to launch the 2020 Census later this year, local groups are working behind the scenes to make sure everyone is counted.

Complete Count Committees are located in several cities, and members are working to educate the public about the census and to promote it.

One committee is in Joplin.  It was formed by the non-profit organization, One Joplin, after Joplin City Council appointed it to do so.

Ashley Mickelthwaite is executive director of One Joplin and chair of the Complete Count Committee.

She said their committee is made up of representatives from around 40 community organizations.

"Our committee is tasked with making sure that everyone in Joplin gets counted and they have a voice," she said, "and we want to make it as easy as possible for people to participate in the census as well as raise awareness  as to the importance of the census."

It’s important for everyone to be counted for several reasons, according to Mickelthwaite.  One is that the numbers are used to allocate congressional seats, including the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives and the boundaries of legislative districts. 

And there’s the issue of how much federal funding a community gets.

"Every 10 years, the census happens, and, based on that census, about $1300 per person that's counted can come back to an area," she said, "so, if people aren't counted, that area loses federal funding."

That funding, she said, is used for things like highways, school lunch and breakfast programs, adult education and special education grants, Head Start, programs for the aging and more.

Based on predictions of undercount, Joplin is at risk to lose up to $22 million a year, according to Mickelthwaite. 

Her group is taking several approaches to making sure people, especially those who are traditionally undercounted, know about the census and the importance of being counted.  For example, she said veterans are among those who are tend to be undercounted.  They’re working with veterans’ groups to get the word out, and they’ll set up locations where people can fill out the census online.

She wants the public to know that census answers can only be used to produce statistics and cannot be used against citizens in any way.  The Census Bureau is not allowed to share an individual’s responses with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement entities for 72 years.

The U.S. Census Bureau said that by April 1 every home should receive an invitation to participate in the census by mail, by phone or online.  Information will go out starting in mid March.

Michele Skalicky has worked at KSMU since the station occupied the old white house at National and Grand. She enjoys working on both the announcing side and in news and has been the recipient of statewide and national awards for news reporting. She likes to tell stories that make a difference. Michele enjoys outdoor activities, including hiking, camping and leisurely kayaking.