BY RONALD D. BERKEBILE
VIRGINIA BEACH — As of this week, two thirds of Virginia Beach residents have submitted their census forms.
That’s higher than the national average, but, ultimately, that total should be near 100 percent. Participation helps our city be counted in a number of ways that matter.
The 2020 census kicked off on Thursday, March 12 – right as the Covid-19 pandemic ramped up. Every 10 years in years ending in zero, the U.S. Census Bureau counts every resident in the United States and its territories.
The data collected is important to democracy because it is used to determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and to draw district boundaries throughout the commonwealth.
Census data is also vital for communities because it is used to disburse nearly $700 billion in federal funds to state and local government.
That money pays for services like hospitals, transportation projects, schools, Medicare and Medicaid, food through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), affordable housing, environmental protection and more.
Right now, these funds are especially important because people in Virginia Beach and across the country are struggling due to financial losses related to the novel coronavirus, which can cause the disease Covid-19.
Virginia Beach has seen an unprecedented rise in unemployment claims and registration for food and housing assistance. Federal funding for safety net programs is directly tied to census data.
In fact, for every person who is not counted, Virginia Beach loses about $2,000 per person each year for 10 years straight. That’s money that could have gone toward helping people devastated by this pandemic.
Filling out the 2020 census form is a simple thing every single household in our city can do to help during these uncertain times.
Completing the census is also required by law. Due to Covid-19, response times have been extended. However, the Census Bureau tentatively plans in June to begin the process of sending representatives door-to-door to help those who have not responded. Responding now lessens the need for census takers to make in-person visits to households.
You can submit your census response by mailing in the form sent to your address, visiting My2020Census.gov online or calling (844) 330-2020. Visit 2020Census.gov online if you’d feel more comfortable completing the survey in a language other than English, have questions or would like more information.
You can also track progress in your community, Virginia Beach, the state and all the way up to the national level by visiting 2020census.gov/en/response-rates.html.
If you have already completed yours, please help spread the word among your family, friends and neighbors.
And, for people who want more information about how to help our communities during the Covid-19 pandemic, please visit emergency.vbgov.com/coronavirus.
Ronald D. Berkebile is an economic analyst for the city of Virginia Beach. He serves as the programmatic lead for the Mayor’s 2020 Census Complete Count Committee.
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