SIDNEY – The United States Census Bureau has started mailing out notices for the 2020 census, and Commissioner Julie Ehemann and other Shelby County officials are ramping up efforts to encourage residents to respond.
“It’s very basic information, but it’s going to be very beneficial to the county that they follow through and fill out the census for us,” Ehemann said. “And I’d really like it if Shelby County is a shining star in self reporters. That’s my goal.”
Ehemann, who was appointed to the Governor’s Census 2020 Complete Count Commission by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, is working with local census intern Jennifer Wentz and volunteers on the 2020 Census Shelby County Complete Count Committee to encourage Shelby County residents to respond to the census.
The results of the census, which has been held every decade since 1790, determine how many congressional seats each state gets and how $1.5 trillion in federal spending is distributed.
“Federal dollars, it’s billions of dollars that gets distributed through programs,” Ehemann said, “and they figure that each missed person will cost our county in some sort of services about $1,600.”
The U.S. Census Bureau launched its 2020 census website, https://2020census.gov/, on March 9, providing information about the census and allowing residents to respond. On March 12, the Census Bureau started mailing notices to residents across the nation.
The 2020 census marks the first time that residents are encouraged to respond to the census online. However, individuals still may answer the questionnaire by phone or through the mail.
“Most people are going to have it done in 10 minutes,” Ehemann said.
To inform residents about the census, the 2020 Census Shelby County Complete Count Committee has distributed posters and literature throughout the county, and other organizations such as the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA have distributed information as well.
Ehemann also has contacted churches, trucking companies and other organizations to find people who might be more difficult to reach.
“We’re just really trying to reach those persons who don’t have a stable home environment,” Ehemann said. “To me, those are the hardest ones to be counted.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting nearly all aspects of daily life, much of the local outreach has moved online.
“With all the new measures being taken by the governor regarding the coronavirus, we will have to shift our outreach online, focusing more towards social media as a way to continue sharing the message,” Wentz said.
The census asks questions such as how many people are living at a residence and what are their ages, races and genders.
“The basic census only asks very, very brief questions,” Ehemann said. “Honestly, you could get online and look it up.
“They’re not intrusive questions. It’s not like they ask you about your health care. The census doesn’t even ask what your family income is; that’s a different study. The basic census only wants to know how many people are in your house, how old they are, what race they are, basic questions like that.”
Ehemann said distrust of the government does lead to some people not responding to the census, but she wants them to know all their answers are confidential.
“I think in our community, we’re pretty engaged and understand that when the federal government asks for this information, there’s a reason why,” she said.
From May through July, census takers will visit residences that haven’t responded to the census in an effort to ensure everyone is counted. The Census Bureau still is hiring temporary employees, Ehemann said, and is paying about $19 an hour.
If residents self report to the census online, by telephone or by mail, they won’t have to worry about census employees coming to their homes, Ehemann said. That’s a great way to alleviate any concerns about door-to-door scammers, disease or invasion of privacy, she said.
“I know what it’s like to live out in the country and have my dogs running around and people pull in and the dogs get all excited, you know,” Ehemann said with a laugh. “And I’m like, if you don’t want people pulling in and the dogs getting all excited, fill it out.”
During the last decennial census 10 years ago, approximately 72 percent of Shelby County residents self reported, which was slightly above the state and national averages.
“I’m hopeful that with our efforts we’re closer to 80 percent,” Ehemann said of this year’s response.
For more information about the 2020 census, visit https://2020census.gov/ or call Ehemann at 937-498-7226.
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