Census Participation Important for the Salina Community

SALINA – An undercount in the 2020 U.S. Census means that Salina could miss out on approximately $49,343.40 in federal funding (over 10 years) for each household that is missed.

Getting a complete and accurate count of all the people who live in Salina is important for many reasons. Census results have long been used in determining the distribution of federal funding that supports schools, roads and highways, public health, affordable housing programs and other community needs. Census results provide a resource widely used for emergency preparedness, community planning or by businesses deciding whether to open a store or restaurant or provide a service in the area.

According to the 2010 Census, the population in Salina was 47,707. City officials would like to see the city’s population count surpass 50,000 making Saline County a Metropolitan Statistical Area – a designation that can trigger eligibility for block grants and transportation funding, as well as making the community of interest to more businesses looking to expand or relocate.

In the 2010 Census, Kansas had a response rate of 70 percent, Saline County 78 percent, and Salina 78.9 percent. At a press conference for the 2020 Census held at the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Mike Hoppock issued a challenge for the community to strive for an 80-85 percent response rate.

In preparation for the census, City of Salina staff reviewed and updated every one of the city’s more than 20,000 addresses and appealed any discrepancies with census records. In addition, a Complete Count Committee that consists of numerous stakeholders was formed to actively promote the 2020 Census.

This year, online participation in the census will be available for the first time. The census can also be completed over the phone, by mail or by talking to a census employee. Citizens are encouraged to complete the census by April 1, Census Day.

Almost all area residents will receive a sealed letter in the mail from the U.S. Census Bureau between March 12 and March 20 that contains a geocode specific to their physical address. They can use the code to respond online or by phone as soon as they receive the letter, although the code is not required to respond.

The census will utilize a total of five mailings. Everyone will get the initial letter and a reminder about a week later, but only people who don’t respond during the first five or six weeks of the census will get all five mailings. For people who have a post office box, the letter will be dropped off at their home by a census worker.

Although people can’t request a paper form, if that is their preferred method of responding they can wait for the fourth reminder mailing, which will contain a paper form.

The census includes 10 questions that ask the names, ages, genders and races of everyone living in the household. The information is used for statistical purposes only, and no individual is identified. The Census Bureau does not ask for money, a full Social Security number, bank or credit card account numbers or information about political affiliation.

The Census Bureau collects data on everyone – regardless of U.S. citizenship – at the residence where they usually live and sleep. By law, information collected is confidential and cannot be shared with law enforcement agencies, immigration authorities or be used to determine eligibility for government benefits.

For some people, participating in the census will require no effort on their part. People living in nursing homes, military bases, students living in college campus housing and inmates in jail or prison will be counted by those institutions. Census enumerators will follow a protocol to count homeless people as well.

People who travel seasonally between residences or parents who share joint custody of children, may find it difficult to determine a primary residence. In that case, the individual or child should be counted wherever he or she is on April 1.

College students living away from their parental home while attending college are counted at the on-campus or off-campus residence where they live most of the time. Students who live off-campus will need to complete the census with their roommates.

People who complete the census on their own won’t need to interact with census enumerators. During the 2010 census, 72 percent of households nationwide responded to the census without being visited by a census worker.

The Census Bureau also sends a small sample of the population a more detailed questionnaire called the American Community Survey, and anyone who receives it will need to complete it as well as the census questions. The ACS is conducted annually and gathers additional data about housing, income, education level, employment status, health insurance coverage and other subjects. ACS information, which is used for statistical purposes without identifying any individuals, informs policy and planning decisions on the local, state and federal level.

The U.S. Census Bureau must submit state population totals to the president of the United States by Dec. 31. More detailed results will be provided to states within a year.

For further information pertaining to the 2020 Census, visit kansascounts.org and 2020census.gov, or call Dustin Herrs, City of Salina Planner II & Staff Liaison to the Complete Count Committee, at 785-309-5720.

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