The numbers matter.

The U.S. Census population numbers help federal officials determine how billions of dollars of funds are distributed to states and localities.

Earlier this month, Peggy Hurley, a U.S. Census Bureau partnership specialist, told the county’s board of supervisors that the census totals impact everything from redistricting to grant awards.

“Our goal,” she said, “is to count everyone.” However, when it comes to the 2020 census, she told the supervisors that the county will have obstacles to overcome, especially since the survey will be available online next year. Citizens, she said, need access to computers and WiFi connections.

One region of the county that needs careful attention is Sugar Grove, said Hurley. She noted that community was Smyth’s largest non-response area in 2010.

As well, Hurley said officials will need to reach out to low-income housing units and develop strategies for reaching the homeless. While the homeless aren’t evident here, Hurley said, it’s common to find two to three families living in one home.

Then, there’s the problem with young children. In many areas, including Smyth County, Hurley said, people haven’t been including children who are newborn to five years old. “They need to be counted,” she said.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do here,” Hurley told the supervisors, asking them to consider forming a Complete Count Committee.  Information, she said, needs to get into the hands of many people.

Hurley said her team is reaching out to schools. She noted that a Saltville Elementary teacher is going to conduct a mock census to encourage students to talk about the census’ importance at home.

The survey will go live March 1, 2020, with April 1 designated as Census Day.

People will be able to complete the survey online, by phone and by mail.

To help conduct the census, Hurley said, between 130 and 140 temporary jobs will be available locally.

Concluding her presentation to the supervisors, Hurley said, “We could really use your help in making sure everyone in Smyth County is counted.”

The U.S. Constitution mandates that the country’s population be counted every 10 years. The U.S. has done so since 1790.

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