Being counted in the upcoming U.S. census is important to ensure adequate resources make their way to various county and local programs that serve residents, according to Pickerington and Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission officials.

U.S. Census Day is April 1, 2020 -- no fooling.

By that date, every home in the U.S. is expected to have received an invitation to participate in the national population count.

Once those invitations arrive, people may respond online, by telephone or by mail. The respective telephone numbers, mailing and web addresses whereby residents may respond will be provided in the census invitations mailed to residences.

Local municipal officials said they do not care which method residents use to respond; they only hope residents will respond so the Census Bureau can get an accurate count of the people living in Violet Township, Pickerington, central Ohio and the state.

"There're so many federal funding allocations that are determined by the census that it's important to be counted," said Dave Gulden, Pickerington's economic-development director. "It's important to have a good count so we have appropriate allocations of funding based on our population. We don't want to miss out on funding."

Gulden said Pickerington's estimated population going into 2020 is 23,096. That's up from about 18,000 in 2010, when the census last was taken.

Violet Township's 2020 population is projected to be 46,429, according to MORPC.

In 2010, it was 38,572, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"(Pickerington has) grown by about 5,000 (residents) over nine years," Gulden said. "In a community like Pickerington where the population is changing -- in this case, increasing -- it's very critical that we get an accurate count."

Accurate counts better ensure Ohio and Fairfield County receive their fair shares of money for federally funded programs for everything from local education and college-student financial aid to prenatal care and road repair and improvement projects.

He said the information also is "crucial" for businesses and nonprofit organizations.

"They use that information in order to target their customers, to better understand the demographics of a particular area," he said.

The population counts also help lawmakers adjust electoral districts according to population shifts.

Each decade, the census reveals where populations have risen or fallen, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's website. State legislatures or independent bipartisan commissions handle the process of redrawing congressional district lines and the Census Bureau provides population counts to states for that purpose, according to the site.

Violet Township trustees chairman Darrin Monhollen said the census data is used to determine federal funding for "important projects in our area and services that will benefit individuals in need."

"An accurate census count is instrumental in determining how many members will represent our area and state in Congress," he said

Aaron Schill, director of data and mapping at MORPC, said households will begin receiving the invitations to respond to the census in February and March.

In May, the federal government will employ workers to canvass their community's neighborhoods to try to get resident counts of households that haven't responded online or via telephone or mail.

"There will be local people going into the communities, starting in May and through the summer, knocking on doors trying to get that information," Schill said.

Schill said an accurate count can help regional agencies and local governments better understand where their populations are so emergency-response systems can be more effective and service programs can be better targeted.

"We want to make sure residents are well-served by programs and services within their communities," he said.

According to a study by the GW Institute of Public Policy at George Washington University, a private research university in Washington, D.C., Ohio receives about $33.5 million in annual federal funds for 55 programs based on population.

"Literally, every aspect of community funding (from the federal government) that comes through our state is based on population counts," Schill said.

"The funding equates to about $1,800 per person, per year, for the next 10 years that's allocated -- or that's not allocated if we are undercounting."

MORPC predicts the 15-county region of central Ohio it serves will have approximately 2.4 million to 2.5 million people in 2020. In 2010, MORPC's 15-county region population was approximately 2.18 million.

"The census is an actual count," Schill said. "It will help us to understand if those (MORPC) projections are accurate or not.

"It will give us a much more current and new baseline to work from."

Updated census information is scheduled to be provided to the U.S. president and Congress by Dec. 31, 2020.

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