The 2020 US census matters now more than ever
By Martin F. Rios, retired law enforcement officer currently serving as a Maricopa County Justice Courts Hearing Officer
The 2020 census is right around the corner, and it’s more important than ever to make sure that every member of your household is counted.
The census plays an important role in our democracy and is a civic duty of all Americans. As mandated by the U.S. Constitution, our nation gets just one chance each decade to count its population.
If you are going to live in this country, you need to be counted because it impacts not just those in your state and community, but the country as a whole. Political representation and boundaries are set based on population numbers. Hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are based on the census count. This money goes to fund programs that touch just about every aspect of our lives.
Over the past decade, Arizona has grown rapidly, and this isn’t expected to change anytime soon. Making sure everyone is counted in the 2020 census ensures that everyone who lives in Arizona receives their fair share of federal funding and political representation.
Here are 10 reasons why it is important for you and everyone in your household to be counted.
1. It impacts federal funding
When we respond to the census, we help our community get its fair share of federal funds. Census data is used to allocate more than $675 billion in federal funding, about 13 percent of all government spending. This funding goes to state and local government agencies, schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs, many of which help underserved populations
2. Population numbers determine House seats
Census figures determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives through a process called apportionment. When a state’s population increases enough, it may add additional representatives, which gives the state and its residents a bigger voice in Washington, D.C.
3. School programs can grow as a result
Census data is used to allocate how much money schools receive for a variety of programs that help improve our children’s education, including special education, classroom technology, teacher training, after-school programs and school lunches.
4. Accurate resident population totals are determined
The information in the census helps provide counties and communities with accurate population totals, including breakdowns by sex, age, race and other factors. Accurate counts help local governments develop programs and projects that better serve their residents.
5. It aids local government initiatives
Local governments use the census for public safety, emergency preparedness and public health initiatives.
6. New development locations are determined
The census data also helps local governments plan for future development, political boundaries and to site important facilities, such as schools, roads and hospitals.
7. Businesses benefit, too
Businesses also use census data when deciding where to build factories, offices and stores. These new businesses create jobs, which help boost our local economies.
8. Neighborhoods can get a facelift
Developers use the census when they plan where to build new homes and revitalize old neighborhoods.
9. Data supports nonprofit volunteer effort
Non-profits use census data to develop public involvement strategies, such as determining how many volunteers they need to serve different segments of the population
10. It can help prove residency or citizenship
You and your neighbors can use the census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life and consumer advocacy. Information from the census may also be helpful if you are looking for proof to establish your age, residence or relationships, which can be helpful if you are seeking a pension, citizenship or inheritance.
Martin F. Rios is a University of Phoenix alumni, has a business background, and retired law enforcement officer currently serving as a Maricopa County Justice Courts Hearing Officer and member of the United Food Bank Board of Directors, Mesa Community College Red Mountain Community Advisory Committee and Community Engagement Advisory Board, the Gilbert Police Department Community Forum Committee and the Mesa Police Department Community Connections and Forum. Previously, he was the East Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Membership Director and served on the City of Mesa Human Relations Advisory Board. Rios spent 29 years working in law enforcement, with 18 years as the Arizona Law Enforcement Information Coordinator providing services for Federal, State, County, City and Tribal agencies on behalf of the Rocky Mountain Information Network.