Partnership specialists representing the 2020 U.S. Census presented programs to interested area representatives on Wednesday.
Residents of Atlanta, Cambridge and Burden attended a briefing at the Burden City Building, while Winfield had its meeting later in the afternoon at the city building.
Steven Hale led the discussion about the need for census takers in the mandatory 2020 census with PowerPoint illustrations. Assisting him were Jason Dean and Caress Adams, also Partnership Specialists.
Hale pointed out that a census is required by law every 10 years and must include every person living in the U.S. For the first time, residents will be able to respond to the census online or by phone, as well as by mail. If necessary, these encounters will be followed up by census taker visits. There may be some problems with people distrusting the online version because of security concerns.
Other challenges facing census takers and the bureau include budget restraints, people’s distrust of the government in general and social media.
“Everything we get is confidential,” Hale said. “Everyone involved has to take a lifetime oath to not reveal any information from the census. It is not shared with other agencies, either. The information is held for 72 years and then destroyed.”
Hale said that the point of the informational meetings they are holding across the state is to alert citizens about the upcoming census, to organize Complete Count Committees and to emphasize how important it is to be counted.
“The hardest groups to get an accurate count on are children under 5 years old and adults over 65,” he said.
An interesting question from the audience concerned counting college students.
“A full-time college student who spends nine months at the college site is counted with the town the college is in,” he said. “So a student from, say, St. Francis, Kansas, who attends Southwestern College for two semesters is considered a resident of Winfield and is added to the Winfield count.”
He went on the explain that the bureau is compiling Complete Count Committees. These groups consist of community members who can advocate for the census, especially among hard-to-count groups such as senior citizens, ethnic groups, low income, homeless people and others. The committees are challenged to find ways to help people to understand the importance of the census.
Director of Cowley First Kerri Falletti said Winfield and Arkansas City, will have individual Complete Count Committees, and she is looking into making Atlanta, Burden, Cambridge and Dexter into one coordinated Complete Count Committee.
“That way, each small town will not have to organize and publicize their individual groups.” she said. “They can work together to make a stronger group.”
The census provides important information for the state and community, including the number of representatives in Congress and a variety of residential needs, such as new roads, schools and emergency services, grants and others.
Those attending the Burden meeting were Falletti; Atlanta City Clerk Jonathon Perkins; Burden City Clerk Julia Loving; Burden City Council member Chris Cannon; Cambridge City Council member Chuck Leibau; and Donna Jackson, president of Joseph’s Storehouse board of directors.
More information on the 2020 census is available at census.gov@uscensusbureau. There is also an application to be a census taker on the website.