Only three weeks are left for residents of Independence County to contribute to the 2020 Census. While some folks may be suspicious about giving information to the government, or simply “too busy,” the hesitation could cost money to their friends, families, neighbors, and communities. The results determine how money is allocated to the community for the next decade, shaping the future of the city, county, and state.
Crystal Johnson, president and CEO of the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce explained how all areas of community and economic development are impacted by federal allocations.
“For example, programs and grants that support our education and health systems, public safety, influence highway planning, infrastructure projects and inform business development and investment. If we don’t fill out our forms we are losing money to other communities. It is a very competitive environment for community and economic development and we need to take advantage of every single opportunity for federal funding possible,” Johnson said.
“If our community is to remain viable, it is absolutely crucial that we return accurate census reporting. Due to COVID-19, additional challenges and barriers to communication have hindered opportunities for education and outreach efforts in many parts of our county. The Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce would be in favor of an extension in order for every single household to have the opportunity to participate.”
Nathan Reinhart, chairman and agent of the Independence County office for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, explained census information is used to help rural communities, just as much as it is used in urban areas.
“The census is a vital part of our rural communities. It only comes around every ten years and it’s your chance to stand up and get counted. It plays a vital role in the funding of rural towns and our county. It plays a vital role in helping our small agri communities to have the resources they need to operate on,” Reinhart said.
According to UAEX, there are about 55 programs in the state receiving $9.8 billion in federal funding. That funding depends on accurate census information. Here’s some ways those federally funded programs touch Independence County communities.
Census numbers are used to fund Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), healthcare centers, and community facilities.
Census data is used to fund the Women’s Infants and Children (WIC) program, public school breakfasts and lunches, and the children’s insurance program.
Census numbers are used to fund USDA home loans, highway planning and construction projects, Water and Waste Disposal Systems for Rural Communities, and public housing programs such as Section 8.
Census data is used to fund federal student loans, Pell grants, special education grants, vocational rehabilitation, along with career and technical education grants.
For those who can’t find the paper copy of the census survey, households can fill it out online, by visiting the website: 2020CENSUS.gov. In the 2010 Census, Batesville’s population was 10,248, and was estimated to have grown by six percent to 10,878 by 2019. So far this year, about 63.2 percent of Independence County residents have responded to the census. That’s a higher response rate than most counties in the state. For example, neighboring Izard County just has a 38 percent response rate.
According to Arkansas Counts, a statewide coalition committed to a complete and accurate census, just undercounting one percent of the state’s population could result in nearly $1 billion in lost funds over a 10-year period.
“This is very crucial to Batesville, Independence County, and the state. We rely on this funding to help take care of our citizens.” said Batesville Mayor Rick Elmbaugh.
Think of it like this: Grandma wants to know how many people are coming to Thanksgiving. If you don’t say “count me in,” don’t be surprised if you show up to no place to sit, and not enough food, and no pie.