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Making the region count even more

People have a lot of power to improve the economy where they live. Most don’t realize how much power. They also don’t know how easy it is to make a big difference.

Few like to see their hard earned tax dollars go to other communities. Most think that the money the government takes out of their pay checks should be spent on things that benefit them in their own communities. They also think their community is just as deserving, maybe more deserving, of big donor gifts. When they hear about other places getting fabulous new attractions, school improvements or new industries and businesses with great paying jobs, they say, “Why not here?”

Most of us agree. Yet we hear that New York tax dollars often go to poorer states. States where people don’t pay as much into the system as we do. We also see other communities get big grants from private and public sources. We see businesses choose to build in other communities rather than in our community.

It doesn’t always seem fair. It doesn’t always seem right.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can help your community. Do your part. Encourage your friends and neighbors to do their part too. It’s not hard.

Decisions about where many of your tax dollars are spent, and where donors choose to give their money, are usually based on which communities are most deserving, most in need, where projects are most likely to be successful or where they’ll be more likely to spur more growth and development. Facts are used to make those decisions. Decisions like determining where hundreds of billions of dollars in federal and state funds are spent.

Businesses decisions about where to locate, and where to expand, are made by comparing facts about different communities. Companies need to identify emerging markets to grow their industries. Individual entrepreneurs need to understand the community before they will open a new store, restaurant or office in your community. Developers need facts to decide which old neighborhoods deserve revitalization and where to build new homes.

All of these decisions are usually based on the best facts available. The facts used most often come from the most reliable and comprehensive source – the U.S. Census.

When people aren’t counted in the U.S. Census, their entire community is likely to suffer for a full ten years, until the next census is completed. That means 10 years of watching other communities, sometimes communities at the other end of the country, get better roads, improved hospitals, new parks, upgraded broadband access, good paying jobs and many other things we think we deserve too. That’s because decisions about where tax dollars are spent, where donations are given and where businesses open are based on facts about the people living in a community. Decision makers want to know how much those communities need those things. They need to know how likely it is businesses will thrive there. These important decisions are based on the story painted by the facts people provide about themselves in the US Census. If everyone isn’t counted, it makes it look like a community doesn’t have as many people or need as much of our tax dollars spent there. An undercount can also make a community look less attractive to businesses and donors.

That’s why it’s so important that the census count everyone.The framers of the Constitution of the United States chose population, not wealth or land, to be the basis for sharing political power. The goal of the census, ever since the first count in 1790, is to count the entire population of our country. It’s done by counting every person at the location where they usually live. The goal is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.

Completing the Census is fast and easy. Most, when they start filling it out, are surprised to find it takes only a few minutes. That’s because the questions are simple and there aren’t many.

A lot of thought went into finding a way to see exactly how many people live in a community. All the questions look at only one day in 10 years. The 2020 Census asks about April 1, 2020. That’s so people don’t get counted more than once. It asks how many people were living or staying in your home on that one day. Then it asks a few questions about each of them, including you. It asks for everyone’s name, age, date of birth, sex, race and if they’re Hispanic, Latino or Spanish. It also asks how each person is related to you, if they are, and if they usually live or stay somewhere else.

What isn’t asked is just as important. You will never be asked for your Social Security number or your bank or credit card account numbers. No one will ask you for money or donations. You also won’t be asked about your citizenship status or anything about politics.

The little bit of information you do provide is added to the information provided by all your neighbors. It gives the government a better understanding of who lives where, all across the country. That information is then used to make big decisions that will impact you and your community.

You can complete the census in less than ten minutes at https://my2020census.gov/. It’s safe, secure, and confidential. Your information and privacy are protected. The Census Bureau is bound by federal law to protect your information, and your data is used only for statistical purposes. Your responses are compiled with information from other homes to produce statistics, which never identify your home or any person in your home.

If you haven’t completed the 2020 Census, a census taker will visit your home to help. Completing the census is that important.

Help make government work for you and your neighbors. Complete the census well before the final deadline on Sept. 30.

Patty Hammond is Economic Development Coordinator at the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation. The Local Economic Development (LED) Initiative is a standing committee of the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation (NCCF). Send comments or suggestions to Patty Hammond at phammond@nccfoundation.org

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