City and county to host informational meeting about the upcoming 2020 census

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A 2020 census form is pictured in this undated photo.

The City of Lawrence and Douglas County are hosting an informational meeting later this month about the upcoming 2020 census and the importance of getting an accurate population count.

Local census experts will be on hand at the public meeting, scheduled for Jan. 28 at the Lawrence Public Library, to share information about the timing of the census, job opportunities associated with it and more, according to a city news release.

The census counts all people residing in the United States every 10 years, and city spokesman Porter Arneill said getting an accurate count is important for local governments because they receive funding based on population.

“And it’s just not a one-time basis, but it’s for a 10-year period,” Arneill said. “So for every person that we don’t count, we effectively lose potential funding from the federal government.”

More specifically, for each household that is missed in the census, Lawrence loses out on approximately $49,000 in federal funding over the 10-year census period, according to the news release. The money helps fund a variety of initiatives, including school lunch programs, Head Start programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Community Development Block Grants, among others, according to census information provided on the city’s website.

Those numbers also matter for the state as a whole. Kansas Counts, a statewide effort aimed at increasing participation in the census, reports that if 1% of the Kansas population is uncounted in the census, the state of Kansas could miss receiving approximately $604 million in federal funding over a 10-year period, according to the Kansas Counts website.

In addition to determining how much federal funding states receive, census data is used in a variety of other ways, including determining state representation in the House of Representatives.

Arneill noted that one of the biggest changes for this year’s census in Kansas is that everybody is counted as a resident of the place where they currently reside, including students and military personnel. That’s a significant change for a city such as Lawrence, which is home to the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University.

In November, Kansas residents voted to end the state’s practice of adjusting official census numbers to eliminate nonresident college students and military personnel. Under the old procedures, the state counted college students and military personnel not where they were living but in a “permanent” home elsewhere, according to previous reports. That was outside Kansas for thousands of people, and the practice cost university towns some political clout.

Lawrence households will receive a mailed invitation to participate in the 2020 census by April 1, and those who do not respond will receive reminders, according to the city’s website. People can respond online or by phone, and census takers will begin visiting households that haven’t responded in May.

City and county governments established the Lawrence/Douglas County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee in the fall, and the committee is working with various community organizations to promote the census. Arneill said the committee’s mission is to reach out to various populations and encourage them to participate.

The speakers at the upcoming meeting will include Xanthippe Wedel and Frankie Foster-Davis. Wedel works at the Kansas State Data Center at KU and is on the Kansas Complete Count Committee. Foster-Davis works in recruitment for the 2020 census. There will be time for a question-and-answer session following their presentations.

The meeting will take place from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28 in the auditorium of the library, 707 Vermont St.


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