Stand and be counted

The Covington News - - Front page -

When our na­tion’s founders wrote the Con­sti­tu­tion of the United States, they re­quired that the U.S. Cen­sus be taken ev­ery 10 years to count the num­ber of peo­ple liv­ing in Amer­ica. The first Cen­sus was taken in 1790 and has con­tin­ued ev­ery 10 years since.

Our fore­fa­thers had a unique plan to e m p ow e r the peo­ple over their new­gov­ern­ment­by­count­ing ev­ery per­son liv­ing in the newly cre­ated United States of Amer­ica. The Cen­sus has been used for many things, in­clud­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of mil­i­tary ser­vice. To­day, it is pri­mar­ily used to de­ter­mine rep­re­sen­ta­tion in Congress, thus en­sur­ing ac­cu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the peo­ple by its gov­ern­ment. The secondary use is to de­ter­mine the pro-rata share of money from fed­eral pro­grams to com­mu­ni­ties. It is very im­por­tant that every­one be counted. Pri­vacy of this in­di­vid­ual in­forma- tion is a Con­sti­tu­tional right. By law, in­di­vid­ual Cen­sus records are sealed for 72 years. Only the ag­gre­gate to­tal is shared.

The 2010 Cen­sus is 10 ques­tions that should take about 10 min­utes to fill out. The Cen­sus does not ask about the le­gal sta­tus of cit­i­zens nor for their So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers. The data col­lected help de­ter­mine the num­ber of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

An ac­cu­rate count of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion forms the ba­sis for many im­por­tant but some­times over­looked po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and so­cial de­ci­sions that af­fect our daily lives. The Cen­sus data will help our state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments ap­ply for more than $400 bil­lion in fed­eral funds each year for things like: health and hospi­tal aid, Med­i­caid, job train­ing cen­ters, schools, se­nior cen­ters, etc. Funds from High­way Plan­ning and Construction for road and bridge projects are al­lo­cated in part on the ba­sis of a state’s share of the na­tional pop­u­la­tion. This data is the al­lo­ca­tion of all fed­eral and state fund­ing for our county for the en­tire 10 years fol­low­ing the Cen­sus count. It is vi­tal that every­one be counted!

The num­bers we use to en­list eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment are based on the Cen­sus data now and the next 10 years fol­low­ing. Small lo­cal busi­nesses, lo­cal non-profit agen­cies and some res­i­dents use the cen­sus num­bers to sup­port com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives, es­pe­cially those that re­quire com­mu­nity level data in grant applications for fund­ing.

In to­tal for fed­eral pro­gram ex­pen­di­tures, Ge­or­gia ranks 11th — but we rank 31st in per capita in­come. We are con­sid- ered a donor state. For ev­ery one dol­lar in taxes we pay, we re­ceive ap­prox­i­mately 80 per­cent in fed­eral pro­gram fund­ing. In or­der to bridge the gap be­tween the money put in and the as­sis­tance re­ceived, Ge­or­gians all over the state are mak­ing ef­forts to be counted in 2010.

The cur­rent na­tional re­sponse rate is 52 per­cent and Ge­or­gia’s is 47 per­cent. New­ton County’s re­sponse rate is 49 per­cent lag­ging be­hind our neigh­bors Henry and Wal­ton. Our re­sponse rate in 2000 was 76 per­cent. We can do bet­ter! If you do not have a form, they are avail­able at the li­brary and court­house.

On April 10, New­ton County will host a March to the Mail­box. Please join me in our march to be sure New­ton County is counted and we re­ceive our fair share of fed­eral dol­lars. Sec­ond to the right to vote, this is the most im­por­tant thing you can do for your com­mu­nity. Please, stand up and be counted!

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