The 2020 U.S. Census is just around the corner, and officials hope that residents will take the time to respond as the results will have a big impact on Webster County.

While the decennial census is the federal government’s means of collecting vital data on residents of the country, it is how that data is used that makes it so important to local people. That information helps to direct the flow of funding for programs and services.

Federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities are based on population totals and breakdowns by sex, age, race and other factors. That information controls how some $675 billion per year in federal funds are divided between schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs.

Businesses use census data to decide where to build factories, offices and stores that create jobs. Developers use the census to build new homes and revitalize old neighborhoods. Local governments use the census for public safety and emergency preparedness. Residents use the census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life and consumer advocacy.

“Everyone needs to be counted,” said Webster County Judge Executive Steve Henry. “So much of the funding for local governments is based upon population. In Kentucky, the funding for city streets is based upon residents. School programs are as well.”

Local schools use the census data to help determine staffing needs when it comes to incoming kindergarten classes in local elementary schools.

“My biggest concern is representation,” said Henry. “As the urban areas in Kentucky grows, we are losing the amount of legislators we have from rural areas. We need as much rural representation in Frankfort and Washington DC as we can get.”

Apportionment, or the determination of the proportional number of members each US state sends to the House of Representatives, was the original purpose of the U.S. Census, and it is still used for that purpose today. In compliance with Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, every ten years the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are divided among the states based on population.

A similar process is used in the commonwealth to determine the voting districts that select State Representatives and State Senators.

The census cycle is expected to begin next month when census papers begin arriving in the mail. Residents are urged to complete those forms fully, and not to forget to count everyone living in the household.

After the 2010 census, it was estimated that one in four children under the age of four was not counted. That meant a loss of nearly a half billion dollars funding to local programs, including Medicaid, Community Housing Improvement Program, foster care, adoption assistance and childcare.

During the process residents are reminded that there will also be census takers coming door-to-door within their communities to visit those houses that have no responded to the census.

Residents who are interested in employment through the US Census are urged to apply. For more information see inset story.

Contact Matt Hughes at matt@journalenterprise.com or 270-667-2069