April is a busy time for rural Coloradans. Planting season is here, ditches are running, and the end of school is around the corner. A year from now, another event will begin that is critical to rural communities: the 2020 Census.
On April 1, 2020, the U.S. Census will conduct “the count,” the constitutionally mandated head count of every person residing in the United States. We have completed a census every decade since the nation’s founding over 230 years ago.
This count is vital for communities across Colorado, because it helps determine almost every federal and state dollar we receive. That could mean more money -- or less -- for state and county programs such as Medicaid, nutrition assistance, housing vouchers, free or reduced school meals, grants for community-driven projects, technical support for farmers, and funding for critical transportation projects.
The 2020 Census count will also determine our state’s voice in Washington. Every decade, we use the Census to reallocate congressional districts across the country. Colorado’s booming population could mean an additional district, strengthening our influence in Congress. Even though most population growth has come from the Front Range, strong participation from rural communities will ensure that your interests are heard in county, state, and federal government for the next decade.
In 2020, it will be easier than ever to participate in the Census. As in the past, households will receive an invitation by mail to participate. However, they will now have the option to respond online, by mail, or by phone. Some areas will receive a paper questionnaire along with their invitation. Regardless of how people respond, all information provided to the Census will remain strictly confidential and will not be shared or used for any other purpose.
Rural Coloradans know their communities best and are critical to getting the best count possible. That is why “Complete Count Committees” are forming across our state to work alongside Census staff. I encourage you to join these Committees, especially if you have a connection with individuals who may be hard to reach, such as veterans, immigrants, seniors, families with young children and individuals living in poverty or homelessness. Trusted members of the community, including civic and faith leaders, teachers and school administrators, emergency service providers, and veterans groups will be especially valuable to this effort.
To ensure that rural Colorado has the representation and resources it deserves, let’s make sure we count everyone in the 2020 Census.