By Barb Tolbert
The 2020 Census is only two years away and the city of Arlington, along with the State’s Office of Financial Management, has started outreach to ensure that all of our citizens are counted. The city is planning proactively by preparing local data to assist census counters while providing education and outreach. Most residents know that the census is simply a count of the United States. Did you know that the outcomes from that count impact our day to day lives in three meaningful ways? Those are: our democracy, federal funds and the make-up of our society. First, the census impacts our democracy by determining the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives and in corresponding legislative district boundaries.
Second, the census determines geographical distribution of federal assistance for grants over the next 10 years. Grant programs for low-income households and Medicaid are the focus, but highway infrastructure is also an important part of the funding distribution.
Third, the census collects data that is used by every level of government, nonprofit organizations and foundations. The data allows governing bodies to make informed policy decisions that implement and support services including education, health care, housing, transportation, human services and environmental regulation.
For Arlington, federal funds are essential for our schools, low-income families and transportation.
For example, the census helps fund transportation projects, including the widening of 172nd Street NE. Census data also assists the city’s economic development decisions by providing data about our market, finding gaps in services and supporting local decisions made by trade associations, our Chamber of Commerce and local businesses. The city will be launching a census webpage that will provide the latest news about the 2020 census, and links to the Census Bureau and the OFM. The city also will partner with community groups to support their efforts in getting undercounted and underrepresented groups included in the census. The city is looking to improve on the 2010 Census’ 74 percent reporting rate and is encouraging all citizens to participate in the 2020 Census. Let’s make the 2020 census reporting rate 100 percent.
Barb Tolbert is the mayor of Arlington. The city’s column runs each month.