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Sun Times Feature Story

01162020 1A Cenus pic

The US Census & Why It Matters

How Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, Aventura, & Sunny Isles Beach Receive Funding census data

By Austin Torres

Every 10 years the U.S Census Bureau conducts its decennial census; a comprehensive account of every person living in the country. The data that is collected in the decennial census has a profound effect on each state as it determines how and where government funds will be allocated. The census also determines how many U.S. congressional seats each state has. For example, the data that was collected in the census of 2010 entitled Florida to 2 extra seats in The House of Representatives.

For these reasons we encourage all citizens to participate in the decennial census. By taking the time to answer a few simple questions, and providing accurate information, we can make a major difference in the future of our community. A 10-minute long questionnaire can positively affect us for the next 10 years.

The United States has conducted a census every decade since 1790, and the data that is collected in the census determines what kind of support each state and city receive from the government. $675 billion in government funding which comes from our own tax dollars is redistributed across the nation and the amount that is allocated is determined by the census data.

Several institutions are affected by the census data, such as education. The data collected through the census affects the Free and Reduced Lunch, Special Education Grants, and provides services for children and adults with limited English proficiency. For South Florida this is highly significant. Hallandale Beach has a 35.9 % Hispanic population while Pembroke Pines and Aventura’s Hispanic populations are 30.8% and 40.5%, respectively. Planners also use the census data to determine school district boundaries.

The U.S. Census data is additionally used by planners to build schools, hospitals, clinics, shelters, and other beneficial community services. This could be of great importance for communities which are in need of a new high school such as Sunny Isles, whose residents we had indicated in an earlier article were looking at possible options for a new high school.

The senior citizen community is also affected by the U.S. Census. The data collected in the census affects federal funding to Medicaid, ADRC (Aging and Disability Resource Center) as well as other health programs. With over 23% of the population being over the age of 65 in Hallandale Beach, and 29% in Aventura, there are several seniors who can be affected by the data collected for the census.

The data that is collected can also provide benefits for senior citizens living on fixed or low incomes. For example, King’s County, Wash., was able to use population data to give tax breaks to older homeowners. Population data collected through the ACS (American Community Survey) indicated that there were 40,000 homes eligible for a tax exemption that the state provides, but only 15,000 enrolled. Assessors subsequently teamed up with the ACS to develop a community outreach program to enroll seniors who were eligible for the exemption.

These situations are commonplace across the country. By submitting information to the U.S. Census, we can circumvent these issues, help build a more cohesive community, and take full advantage of government support.

As we have already mentioned above, data collected in the decennial census also determines how many congressional seats in the House of Representatives each state is entitled to. But the Census also determines political representation on the state level. Upon receival of the census data each state determines and decides how to redraw voting districts so that all areas have proper voter representation. This is of particular importance to areas which have seen a huge growth in population over the last decade.

2020 will be the first time that the census is available online. The online version of the census will be offered in 12 different languages with language guides, language glossaries, and language identification cards to facilitate the process. In Mid-March the majority of households in the country will receive a letter in the mail with instructions on how to access the online census. If your household does not fill out the census 3 reminders will be mailed out throughout April.

If you do not wish to participate in the online version you will be mailed a physical copy following your third reminder, which you can fill out and mail back, postage free. Filling out the census is not only important for purposes of receiving government support and funding, but it is also a way to exercise your political rights.

Some people may feel reluctant about providing certain information to the government. Rest assured, the data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau is never released publicly, not even to other government agencies. The data collected is used only for purposes of benefiting, and providing support to our communities. There is no need to worry about government officials coming to knock at your door because of certain answers that were provided on the questionnaire.

As citizens it is our civic duty to participate in the U.S. Census so that we may receive all the benefits it has to offer. We encourage our readers to fill out the questionnaire and ensure that their neighbors do the same. Please take the time to fill out a couple of questions that could truly benefit our community and make the next decade a great one.

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