Pay it forward: Complete the Census 

Contributed photo 

What if I told you that you could receive around $2,000 of federal money by filling out a five minute survey online?

It would seem like a no-brainer, you would think, having watched the clamor and chaos unwind as people anticipate their unemployment and stimulus package checks to stay afloat during the time of crisis.

However, it never ceases to amaze me that only 68.1% of the near 92,000 people who reside in Madison County have completed the 24th decennial 2020 Census -- a task that roughly equates to giving back $2,000 per person, per household in federal funds.

The Census and our response rate to it, it could be argued, is equally as crucial and described as the commonwealth's stimulus package in order to rebuild after the coronavirus pandemic, as it allocates trillions of federal dollars into state funds.

From here, based on population, local governments are handed down money to help address infrastructure, roadways, fund schools and even determine the number of representatives we have in the House.

But for some reason, people in Madison County and even Kentucky are undercounting themselves, failing to fill out the number and demographic of people in their household. A decision that affects their future as individuals, as well as the community they will call home for years to come.

It would seem as though because the funds from the Census cannot be seen, or personally budgeted, its impact is not as dire.

And while it may not be a physical check you can hold in your hands, or one you can deposit in your personal account, the funds recouped from the Census are ones that you can see in repaved roads, an adequate number of textbooks for students, or even in the number of seats in the House of Representatives.

With a response rate of only 68%, Madison County is in line to follow its trend of the past decades of being undercounted and therefore underfunded.

In fact, Madison County is the second worst for undercounting, following just behind Jefferson County.

In 2000, Madison County had a 71% response rate for the Census before going door-to-door, and in 2010, that number increased to 76%, but is still considered poor.

Why is that?

One reason could be attributed to a lack of internet access, as this was the first year for the online response option. With some Kentuckians residing in rural Appalachia, it would be no shock to me that some would have trouble responding this way.

However, limited access does not heavily impact Madison County, which falls in the 91 to 100% range for minimum speed internet access. But even with higher access to internet, only 57% of those in the county have responded to the Census online.

Some in the nation have had harder times responding to the Census because they have been displaced because of the coronavirus, having to quarantine elsewhere or be isolated in the nearest hospital.

But again, coronavirus displacement would cause little to no effect on those in Madison County, with our numbers of those confirmed remaining low and only seven active cases remaining -- all of which are being treated at home.

For some, the decision to neglect their legal obligation to count their household is one of simply no desire to do so. A decision which may not affect you now, but will affect your future and your neighbors' future.

Reminder letter by reminder letter, heads of households throw away a legal request in the trash -- as well as thousands and thousands of dollars.

And why? For what? It is simply a response to better your and your neighbors' quality of life and community. Apart from personal morals, counting yourself is your legal obligation to do.

So, if you are reading this and have failed thus far to take your Census (and have the means to do so), it is not too late.

As everything has been impacted by the coronavirus, the 24th decennial count was no different when the self-response phase of the Census was extended into October of 2020.

Normally, Census response times would end in July. Moreover, nonresponse follow-ups, which are often conducted in person, are now scheduled to take place from mid-August through the end of October 2020.

In a time where being a good neighbor is crucial, completing the 2020 Census is one other way to ensure you can help yourself, your community and your home.

I encourage all those in Madison County to complete their Census so we can look toward rebuilding our home to be better for future generations to come.

Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.

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