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Why the census matters to your community

From school lunches and hospitals to highways and fire departments, your U.S. Census answers help shape your community for the next 10 years.

The goal is to count every person in the U.S., and that count helps the federal government shape state funding for just about everything for a decade.

“You don’t know what you need until you need it, but one thing we do know is that participating in the census has far-reaching results over a decade,” said Marilyn Stephens, assistant regional census manager for the Atlanta region of the U.S. Census Bureau.

Increased funding is critical for a growing Southwest Florida.

A statement from Lee Health reads, in part, that “an accurate census count helps us continue to provide access to high-quality care for all who need it.”

“Factor into that, with health care services, are programs for seniors, programs for veterans, programs for women, infants and children, programs for other infrastructure,” Stephens said.

And as the pandemic has taught us, it’s hard to predict what’s just around the corner, let alone 10 years from now.

“We do know that for emergency preparedness, for emergency management, these statistics are widely used,” Stephens said.

Schools depend on those statistics for their share of federal taxpayer dollars to pay for Head Start programs and the National School Lunch Program.

Right now, the census response rate in Southwest Florida averages less than 50 percent.

Ten years ago, Florida’s response rate was 63 percent.

Census takers aren’t yet going door to door.

You can take part in the census online at 2020census.gov, by returning the form you should have already received in the mail, or on the phone at 844-330-2020.

The census numbers must be ready for presentation to President Donald Trump by December.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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