One of the oldest duties of the Federal government is to conduct a census of the country’s population every 10 years. The requirement is in the first article of the Constitution. Censuses come and censuses go usually without much notice. This year’s census is different, particularly for rural Virginians.
As the last elections to the General Assembly showed, the population of urban Virginia has dwarfed that of rural Virginia leaving the rural area at the mercy of the urban. Thus, every vote in the rural areas is critical. The population revealed in the census is how legislative districts are drawn.
In addition to political considerations, the census is economically important. Federal agencies use it in apportioning $675 billion in government money annually to the county’s different jurisdictions. Each uncounted person costs the locality where he or she lives $2000 annually in lost federal funding.
Northumberland County is making an effort to assure everybody in the county is counted in this year’s census. The Board of Supervisors has created a “2020 Census Complete Count Committee.” Supervisor Jimmy Brann has been named to lead it.
Eve Jordan, who raised the matter to the supervisors, has joined with Vashti Jones to do most of the early ground work.
With Brann’s backing, she is encouraging church, civic and business leaders to help get the word out how important a full count is.
A real difficulty for Northumberland is that the Census Bureau’s preferred method of getting the census returns is via the Internet, Jordan noted last week. The county lacks Internet services in many places and those in others can be maddeningly slow. Many county residents do not have computers. Getting those people counted will be tough.
At this juncture, Jordan said the Northumberland Public Library is making its Internet connections, including those in its mobile library available tor people to use in filling out the census information. She and the committee hope other institutions such as businesses will make their connections available. TJ’s Dairy Barn in Burgess already has offered the use of its connection Jordan observed.
While the census form, which takes 10 minutes to complete can be done by phone or mail, getting people to do that as well as use the Internet if possible, is what the committee and Jordan are trying to have folks urged to do.
The people most often missed by the census are children for various reasons.
In a big city missing 100 people might not make much difference, in Northumberland that could cost $200,000 a year, enough to fund things such as a new school board office or a replacement roof on the 20 year-old elementary school.