By April 1, 2020, every residence will receive an invitation from the U.S. Census Bureau to participate in the 2020 Census.

Preparation for the census count has already begun with an understanding that a complete and accurate count can affect community funding, congressional representation and so much more.

Although census-taking is a centuries-old practice, it was the founders of our country who shifted its use away from one of property confiscation, taxation and military enlistment to make it a tool of political empowerment for the people -- a bold and ambitious plan protected by its inclusion in the U.S. Constitution.

Once a decade, since 1790, America comes together to count every living resident in the United States, creating national awareness of the importance of the census and its valuable uses.

The census reveals where populations have risen or fallen, and identifies where electoral districts need to be adjusted to account for population shifts.

In addition to guiding equal representation across the country, census data can be critically important to businesses, researchers and communities. For example, federal funds, grants and other support to states, counties and communities are based on population totals and breakdowns by sex, age, race and other factors -- all queried in a census.

Census data also help the bureau produce timely local information that can be critical to emergency planning, preparedness and recovery efforts.

For example, knowing the primary language spoken in an area helps emergency management officials deploy specific resources when needed; or awareness of the average age of houses in a given area identifies its level of vulnerability to storms.

Over several decades at the local level, we've learned that a trend in census data can point to additional needs for our community, such as augmented educational opportunities or increased healthcare provisions.

I ran across an article in the Dec. 15, 1960, Grove City Record. Census data collected that year showed a hospital was quickly becoming a need for Grove City and its surrounding communities. Interestingly, among the possible sites named at the time was the corner of Hoover and Holton roads, near Mount Carmel Grove City's location today.

The allocation of funds to local, federally funded programs is derived in part using data from census counts. This includes grants for programs supporting highway planning and construction; health care; learning support including special education programs; and many others.

We are about 140 days from the start of the 2020 Census. This count is the first time individuals have an option to respond online, in addition to mail or phone. The online option is accessible on smartphones or other mobile devices, and I'm told should only take about 15 minutes to complete.

The plan of our country's founders stands strong today and your opportunity to be included is coming soon. Everybody counts and every count matters.

Mayor Richard L. "Ike" Stage is serving his fifth term as mayor.