Census data counts for UP

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The year is 2020. It’s that time.

Yes, it’s time for the U.S. Census information to be gathered. I know it’s not fun. Sometimes we think we don’t want anyone to know who lives in our house, or even that we exist. But, like it or not, even if you believe it or not, it’s important.

The information captured during the census is crucial for funding many of the programs necessary for an area such as Union Parish. It also is used to determine how much representation we have in our government.

The 10-year Census is used to determine funding allocation for many federal programs and if Union Parish residents aren’t counted, state and local funding can be impacted.

Here are just a few of the many programs that distribute federal funds based on the Census count:

· Unemployment Insurance

· Low-Income Home Energy Assistance

· Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

· State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

· Federal Pell Grant Program

·Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

· School Breakfast Program

· Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

· Community Development Block Grant Entitlement Program

Census results help determine how money is allocated for the Head Start program and for grants that support teachers and special education.

The list goes on, including fire protection, programs to support rural areas, hospitals, to restore wildlife, to prevent child abuse and to provide housing assistance for older adults.

As these important programs rely on Census data, that means Union Parish residents need to respond and be counted. Louisiana’s self-response rate is 57.2 percent as of today; however, Union Parish ranks toward the middle in Louisiana at 51.5 percent (the national response rate is 63.2 percent).

UP’s 51.5 completion rate includes 20.2 percent online response. Our neighboring parishes, by comparison, are: Ouachita, 57.3 and 42 percent online; Lincoln, 54.4 and 38.9 percent online; Claiborne, 50.3 and 18.9 percent online.

It’s understandable that rural broadband issues it is difficult to complete the census online. But places like the Union Parish Library can help with their computers and internet service.

Bottom line is this, it’s important. It’s crucial. Please find a way to make Union Parish count.

Byron Avery is a Louisiana Tech Journalism graduate and serves as General Manager and Publisher for The Gazette.