The Census counts in dollars and cents for Plymouth
By David Kindy firstname.lastname@example.org
Thinking about skipping the U.S. Census? If you do, it could cost the town $24,000 per person over the next 10 years.
PLYMOUTH – Thinking about skipping the U.S. Census? If you do, it could cost the town $24,000 per person over the next 10 years.
That’s the amount of federal and state aid Plymouth might miss as a result of census skippers. Each person who fails to complete the count costs their community $2,400 a year for 10 years – and maybe a congressional seat – according to MassVOTE, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization seeking to increase voter participation in Massachusetts.
For Deborah Etzel of the Plymouth Area League of Women Voters, it’s been a challenge getting people to participate in the census this year. Currently, only 65 percent of residents have responded to mail and online requests to fill out the form.
“We started reaching out to people just as COVID-19 got into high swing,” she said. “The pandemic has been a distracting factor. We’ve contacted councils on aging, libraries, churches and other local groups, but there has been very little movement.”
Even Plymouth’s poet laureate has tried to help. Stephan Delbos crafted a poem and recorded himself reciting it trying to encourage local people to take a few minutes to fill out the form. Entitled “A Census Challenge in Verse,” he begins his rhyme with sage advice:
I hope we come to a consensus
On the importance of the census:
All eyes must open to be counted.
The push is on now to get everyone counted now. The U.S. Census concludes Sept. 30 so numbers can be tabulated by the new year. Anyone not included in the count could cost the community valuable aid – and maybe more.
“The count is used to ensure that representation is Congress is proportional to the population in each state,” Etzel said. “That means that if one state loses enough population, they may lose a seat while another state may gain one. That happened to Massachusetts after the 2010 Census. We lost one a seat in the House of Representatives. It may happen to Rhode Island this time.”
New U.S. Rep. Bill Keating was representing District 10, which was eliminated because of population shift. He subsequently ran for a reconfigured District 9, moving from Quincy to Bourne to do so.
While that is important, the loss of federal and state aid is equally critical. State Rep. Matt Muratore, who served on the Select Board in Plymouth, knows how crucial that is for local municipalities strapped by reduced tax revenues.
“There are a number of reasons why everyone should fill out the U.S. Census, but the biggest one is the funding of billions and billions of dollars from the federal and state government for schools, roads and highways, transportation, hospitals and many social service programs,” he said. “The census determines where local, state and federal districts are drawn for election purposes. For future business growth potential of companies, it assists with investment planning in a community.”
According to Etzel, everyone needs to complete the census. It’s required by law and a $100 fine is possible for not complying. More importantly, though, it is a civic responsibility.
“Immigrant communities are understandably concerned,” she said. “If people are here without papers, they are worried the government will find out about them. However, the census is supposed to be 100-percent confidential. The Constitution says every person in the country must be counted – not citizens. That’s why it’s critical that we count everyone.”
Etzel said it takes about seven minutes to complete the Census. If they missed the form in the mail, residents can give their information to a census taker as they go door to door in the community, or they can do so online at https://my2020census.gov.
“Time is of the essence,” she said. “Take the time to be counted so we get our share.”
As Delbos concludes in his poem:
Let these lines inspire a civil
Response to responsibility:
Please self-report your census data.
Be one of us who make the many.
This story originally appeared in Wicked Local Plymouth. Check it out here.