MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - State and local leaders are reminding east Mississippians of the importance of participating in the 2020 U.S. Census.
The census, which is taken every ten years, is essentially a population count for cities, towns, and communities which decides representation in Congress. The census count also determines how the government distributes $675 billion in grants.
National Census Day will be Apr. 1, but census takers will begin the process of collecting information about the population and socio-economic data Mar. 12. Americans will be asked to participate in a 10-minute questionnaire either online, over the phone or by using a paper question and answer form.
“It’s a big deal because for the next 10 years these are the numbers that our federal government is going to base everything off of. These are the numbers that our state government is going to base everything off of," says District 33 state Sen. Jeff Tate.
Tate says an accurate census head count is vital. The data collected will help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding will be divided. The information collected will also determine how many seats in Congress each state gets.
"This is important to us because it determines how many federal dollars, state dollars, and local dollars come into our community. The things we can do to improve in education, health care, your roads and streets. It is all determined by the head count that the people from the census get in Meridian and Lauderdale County," says Meridian Mayor Percy Bland.
The U.S. has counted its population every 10 years since 1790.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves says in the 2010 census, more than 265,000 Mississippians were not counted. He says if it happens again, the state could miss out on more than $13 billion in federal money.
"Mississippi does not need to be one of those. I encourage everybody to please fill out the census because this process will have a 10-year effect," says Tate.
In efforts to encourage residents to participate, members from the U.S. Census Bureau spoke with Magnolia Middle School 8th graders about the importance of the 2020 census.
"Being counted is important because when we get funding for our school, it affects our students. When we don't get that funding, it negatively affects our students. We need everybody to be counted and our students can relay that message to our parents who may not know," says Magnolia Middle School assistant principal, Sherrod Miller.
The Multi-County Community Service Agency in Meridian is offering free internet access for residents to take their census survey, beginning March 12th.
"(MCCSA) understands in the last 10 years Mississippi lost approximately $2 billion in funding because of a low head count. Therefore, we want to work to do our part in making sure the count is as high it can possibly be," says MCCSA executive director, Ronald Collier.
For more information about the U.S. Census, click the attached link.