Opinion: There’s value in counting

Alaskans will live with the consequences of the census for the next 10 years.

  • Wednesday, June 10, 2020 4:07pm
  • Opinion

We have a United States Census every 10 years for three main reasons:

• Set the number of state members in the US Congressional House of Representatives.

• Establish legislative boundaries for local, state and school districts.

• Provide federal funds based on state populations for a wide variety of assistance and services for people and communities in each of the states.

As a result of the census, more than $800 billion will be appropriated for the entire US. Of this, a portion will be used for Alaska — depending on our population count. This count must be as complete and accurate as possible to maximize the federal funds available for Alaska. In 2010, Alaska had the lowest participation rate in the nation at 64%.

The Juneau 2010 Census count had 75% participation. If we have a decrease in our participation count, this will result in decreased funds available to Alaska for projects and services. Hard-to-count populations can include:

• Housebound seniors, persons with disabilities and those who have English language barriers.

• Also included in the hard-to-count are children (newborns-5 years and young people 18-25 years), seasonal workers, veterans, renters, U.S. Coast Guard and Native populations.

That said, the federal funds available to Alaska can potentially be used for:

• Public services: emergency services, public safety, aging senior programs, housing supports and community facilities loans and grants.

• Building and maintenance: schools, libraries, hospitals, roads and highways and water/waste systems

• Education: K-12, Head Start, Title 1 Education, student loans and special education

• Health and Social Services: Denali Kid Care, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Programs, Medicaid, Medicare, Indian Health Service, drug and alcohol programs, energy assistance, national school meal programs, foster care, health care centers, women and infant care programs, vocational rehabilitations, child care and adoption assistance.

• Economic growth: Job creation, business and industry loans, Native American employment and unemployment assistance.

So what do we do now?

• Complete the census information form (it takes about 10 minutes). This can be done online, by mail, by phone or in person.

• On this form, provide your name, gender, date of birth, age, house owner or renter, phone number, relationship to all persons who live in the house (don’t forget all of the kids — about 5% of all kids under the age of 5 years were not counted in 2010), and race/ethnicity (to comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act as a protection). That’s it!

• Never give your Social Security Number, bank or credit card number, any request for money or donations, or any political party request information.

Alaskans will live with the consequences of the census for the next 10 years. Our time has come and, it is now for each of us to be counted.

We all can do this to help Alaska. Alaska will be in a better position to do this to help all Alaskans.

• Dr. carolyn V. Brown is a retired physician, a 55-year resident of Alaska and 19-year resident of Juneau. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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