CLEVELAND, Ohio — Dr. Sarah Ronis is director of the center for child health and policy for University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland. She says besides social distancing and excellent hand hygiene, a crucial action everyone can take to lessen the impact of COVID-19 is completing a 2020 U.S. Census form.
- When everyone is counted, communities across the country get the funding they need for things like health care, education and emergency services
- Officials say the 10 minutes it takes to fill out a form could affect the next 10 years of your life
- For the first time ever, you have the option to fill out the census form onlne
“When we first heard that the time had come to keep kids home from school, one of my first thoughts was, oh my goodness. Many of my children that I take care of in my practice rely on their school for breakfast or lunch. Those school lunch and breakfast programs are funded based on census data. And the resources to help support them while they’re home, like SNAP and TANF, are organized by census data, so it touches everything,” Ronis said.
She says she understands the life-altering effects COVID-19 has had on lives and livelihoods and adds that the 10 minutes it takes to fill out a census form could affect the next ten years of your life.
“For every person in Ohio that is counted in the census, Ohio receives somewhere around $3,200 per year in federal dollars. There is a big picture of past this moment, and that we have a limited opportunity right now to make sure that we're all being counted and that we all have access to the resources we're going to need in the summer, in the fall, next year and five years from now,” said Ronis.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, data collected in the 2020 Census will inform the distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds to states and communities each year.
Ben Holbert is the mayor of Woodmere Village in Cuyahoga County. He was a regional supervisor in for the 2010 Census and now as mayor, Holbert says he's making sure everyone in his community is counted.
“When I get ready to fill out grants for the Village of Woodmere, sometimes those documents will require a population count. Wherever you are, on April 1, 2020, you are to fill out the census form. And I have a copy of mine right here,” he said.
This year, Holbert has also focused most of his attention on reaching out to “hard-to-count” populations.
“We have a whole homeless population, so in the past when we sent out a census form, obviously if they don't have an address or residence where they could go to get that form, they're not going to be counted,” said Holbert. “Another group that you might not at first suspect are senior citizens, because sometimes when the mail comes to their home, they're not quite sure what the document means, and sometimes it's a little bit difficult for them to be able to fill it out... people who live in apartment complexes, because at times they’re transient, they move back and forth from one place to another,” Holbert said.
Paper forms were mailed to certain areas, such as those with low internet use or where large numbers of senior citizens live. The Census Bureau has also launched a telephone-based census option. But, this is the first year the bureau is relying primarily on web-based data collection.
Holbert says most Ohioans will be home due to the “stay-at-home” order and should take advantage of that time to fill out the census online.
“If you are home on April 1st with your family, you have a very good chance of being able to go around and say, okay, I see mom. I see dad. I see son. I see daughter. Let me make sure that I count those people when I fill out the census form,” said Holbert.
You can visit the U.S. Census Bureau website for more information on the census, including the deadline.