Census Could Change the County
By John Meng, Publisher/Editor Stand up and be counted. That’s the message from the U.S. government about the 2020 Census, but it’s also the message from community leaders who understand that the data collected by the Census could significantly change Jackson County for the better.
While some people may have an aversion to giving the government any personal information, the facts are that the 2020 Census will determine congressional representation for the county, direct or redirect hundreds of billions in federal funding every year, and provide data that will impact Jackson County for the next decade.
The population of the United States must be counted every 10 years under the U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 2. The data collected determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and how hundreds of billions of federal dollars are allocated to states and communities for key programs.
The results of this once-a-decade count also determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives. They are also used to draw congressional and state legislative districts. State legislatures or independent bipartisan commissions are responsible for redrawing congressional districts. The U.S. Census Bureau provides states with population counts for this purpose.
To date, the U.S. Census reports that Jackson County has a self-response rate of 40.7 percent, lower than Texas’ statewide average of 55.6 percent and much lower than the national average of 60.9 percent.
According to county officials, the low response could undermine the county’s representation in the state and federal legislature as well repeatedly cheat the county of federal funding for the next 10 years.
“Our state and federal lawmakers will be using the results of the 2020 Census to determine federal and state legislative districts,” Jackson County Judge Jill Sklar. “We will also use the numbers to determine our precincts here locally. If Jackson County residents are left out of the count, their representation will be diminished.
“Additionally, our tax dollars are redistributed every year for hospitals, roads, schools, and other resources,” added Sklar. “Many times, the formulas for redistribution are tied to the number of residents in each county, if everyone is not counted, then we will not get our fair shares of the return of tax dollars."
The 2020 Census basically provides a snapshot of our nation — who we are, where we live, and much more. Over the next decade, lawmakers and many others will use 2020 Census data to make critical decisions. The results will show where communities need new schools, new clinics, new roads, and more services for families, older adults, and children.
The results will also inform how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, Early Head Start, National School Lunch program, Children’s Health Insurance program, block grants for community child care and mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.
“Filling out the census should be considered a civic duty,” said State Rep. Phil Stevenson, who represents Jackson County. “Yes, it is a bit inconvenient, but it is imperative because it is the basis of how our representative republic functions. Without the census once every decade, we cannot know how and where to fund such things as roads, hospitals, highways, water projects, etc. The census is the essence of ‘We the People.’” Rep. Phil Stephenson
In addition, greater Census numbers in Jackson County could attract more business and industry.
Census information is often valuable to businesses, as the results provide a rich set of data on the communities they serve, including population trends and growth projections. Business owners rely on census results to make decisions, such as where to open new stores, restaurants, factories, or offices, where to expand operations, where to recruit employees, and which products and services to offer.
“Currently Jackson County’s response to the 2020 Census Count is poor,” said Sklar. “I strongly encourage everyone to respond with the information for yourself and your household. It is extremely important to our future.”