County Comment: Census Means Money for Town and County Programs
Census Means Money for Town and County Programs
By Norman Bassett, Public Information Officer
Washington County, Maryland
Quick-what comes around every ten years, is a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and means millions in federal funds for healthcare, transportation, schools and roads in Washington County?
Give up? It's the U.S. Census. And in Washington County, "It Pays to Be Counted" is the rallying cry for this decade.
Local organizers say it's vital that every County citizen fill out the census form, coming in March, in order to let the government get a complete count of how many folks live in the community. Unlike the census 10 years ago, only short, 10-question forms will be used this time around.
Co-Chairpersons for the Complete Count Committee for Washington County are County Commissioners' President John Barr, Maryland State Senator Don Munson and "working chair" Sharon Disque of the Hagerstown Home Store.
Barr said that the committee is reaching out to all facets of the Washington County community, through partnerships with all the municipalities, Washington County Public Schools, Department of Social Services, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, faith based organizations and citizen volunteers.
March 2010 will be "Census Month" across the U.S, and activities prior to that date are being planned to promote a full head count, with April 1st designated as National Census Day 2010.
"Some people may not realize, but the amount of federal dollars coming back to our community is predicated on the number of people counted," Barr said. Funds are used for community health needs, planning highways, public transportation, community redevelopment and a host of other uses that benefit citizens.
Disque said that as an example, in 2007, Washington County received $73,000,000 in federal funding for medical assistance programs, and $18,000,000 for Highway Planning projects. Those totals reflected $800.00 for each County citizen. The Maryland average was $1,000 per person, and a complete count should raise the funding level to the state average or above.
The census count determines Washington County's representation in Annapolis and Washington, D.C. Population increases in the various parts of the County dictate your voice in state and local government, but only if courted accurately. The U.S. Constitution makes provision for the count every ten years, to determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives.
The days of door-to-door census takers are almost past. If citizens fill out their forms and return them in a timely manner, there will not be a need for follow-up by mail, phone, or doorstep.
It's important to note that the census is not about the government prying into your personal affairs. Census information is confidential by law. The Census Bureau cannot share your information with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement. No one is going to be asking about the number of toilets in your house. No black vans will be prowling your neighborhood, deciding the number of people who live in your residence by the number of bedrooms, doorways, or windows.
Disque, whose organization assists the City of Hagerstown find homeowners for renovated inner-city residential properties, said that a number of agencies, organizations and businesses will help spread the word. A kickoff meeting will be held in February with the governing bodies of the County, Hagerstown and the other 8 municipalities. A media blitz targeting newspapers, radio, television and "digital media" will get the word out. Parents will receive information through the Census in the Schools program. Planned events such as the "Blues Bash" and sporting events will be utilized.
Digital media will include presences on Twitter, Facebook, local cable systems and links to the web pages of government agencies.
It's a Constitutional right to be counted as a U.S. citizen as well as a responsibility of good citizenship.
Commissioner's President Barr urged all citizens to get behind the census effort, and support the complete count in Washington County.
For more information on the Census, link to www.2010census.gov.