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Participate in 2020 Census

Time is running out.

Our opportunity to step up and be counted has nearly expired, and each of us should make sure that we don not miss the chance.

The U.S. Census Bureau is conducting its traditional 10-year count of the American population. The tabulating has been going on for months, with households across the nation asked to respond.

Options for participating are available, and they make it easy to do so. Forms can be completed and mailed in, or a household member can simply go online and complete the form at 2020census.gov.

Unfortunately, not nearly enough people have taken it upon themselves to respond as requested. Local officials who are urging participation have said the response rate for our region is not what they had hoped it would be.

“I feel bad. I feel like I’m letting the county down,” the Rev. William Webster said during his report to the Belmont County Board of Commissioners Wednesday. Webster is chairman of Belmont County’s Census Committee.

“As we wind down, the numbers aren’t as high as they should be,” he told commissioners. “I’m worried that we’re not going to get the numbers that we need. … The increase has been not very significant.”

Webster said that with fewer than 30 days remaining for residents to register, many areas may be undercounted and the county seat of St. Clairsville stands at risk of losing its city status. A community must have at least 5,000 residents in order to be classified as a city in Ohio.

Webster, of Grace Presbyterian Church in Martins Ferry, believes the COVID-19 pandemic and turmoil and distrust in the government have stymied efforts to count every resident in Belmont County and other local counties.

Reports are similar in Harrison County, which has one of the lowest response rates in the state, and in Jefferson County, where Toronto leaders fear that community could lose city status.

Participating in the Census is easy, and it is important. Questions on the form are very basic, and they do not constitute an invasion of privacy. Not only is the Census Bureau obligated to keep responses confidential, but the questions do not ask for much detailed information in the first place.

Ensuring an accurate count is important for other reasons as well. Congressional representation is determined according to population. So is a good deal of federal funding. Neither of those is something we as individuals or as larger communities want to miss out on. If you haven’t responded to the Census yet, please do so.

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