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Wednesday, May 11, 2011
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Federal Funding, Representation in Congress Depend on Ohio’s Participation in 2010 Census
Recently, more than 120 million census forms were distributed to households across the country as the 2010 census gets underway. This count of the number of people living in the United States – both citizens and non-citizens – takes place every 10 years and is used to determine the number of seats each state will have in Congress.
Currently, Ohio has 18 representatives in Congress. Based on early estimates, Ohio could lose one – and possibly two – seats in the U.S. House. Ohio’s population is also used to help draw the legislative districts for the 33 seats in the Ohio Senate and the 99 seats in the Ohio House of Representatives. Because districts are required to contain roughly the same number of people, the census will help determine how our region is represented in government.
Many of you may have already received your census forms or will be getting them soon, and the questionnaire has been redesigned to make it easier to participate. The form asks 10 questions and should take about 10 minutes to complete. It is important to note that the information reported on census forms is used only by the federal Census Bureau and cannot be shared with other federal agencies or law enforcement officials. A small portion of the population will also receive the American Community Survey, which collects more detailed socioeconomic and demographic information.
Although Census Day is officially, April 1, residents are encouraged to complete their census forms and return them in the provided envelopes as soon as possible. Starting in late April, census workers will begin visiting households that have not returned their questionnaires to take a count in person. Those living in remote areas will also be counted in person. The final population counts will be released early next year.
In addition to getting a more accurate count of the nation’s population, the information gathered by the census is also used to determine how to allocate billions of dollars in federal funding and other resources – making it crucial to have as accurate a count as possible. A report released earlier this month by the Brookings Institute found that census data was used to help distribute more than $440 billion in federal domestic assistance programs in fiscal year 2008.
The largest portion of this money was used to provide grants to states for Medicaid programs and highways projects. Given our state’s extensive network of highways and increasing demand for Medicaid, getting as many people as possible to participate in the census will help ensure that Ohio does not miss out on valuable federal funding.
The Brookings report also ranked the top 200 counties nationwide based on how much federal assistance each received based on 2000 census data. In our region, Hamilton County ranked 51st with more than $1.2 billion, Montgomery County ranked 93rd with $725 million and Butler County ranked 153rd with $306 million.
Census data is also used by state and local officials to determine where new hospitals, schools, emergency services and housing developments should be located. Businesses use it to help decide where to locate plants and what products and services to offer customers, and non-profit organizations use it to understand their constituencies and how best to serve them.
As you can see, Ohio has a great deal riding on the results of the 2010 census, and state and local officials are working together to ensure that all Ohioans are counted. Participating in the census is easy, important and safe, and I encourage everyone to return their forms as soon as possible. For more information about the 2010 Census, visit www.2010census.gov or www.census.ohio.gov.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have questions or concerns about any state-related matter. You can reach my office by phone at (614) 466-9737, by e-mail at SD07@senate.state.oh.us or by writing State Senator Shannon Jones, Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 43215. I look forward to hearing from you.