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2020 Census | What You Need to Know

Posted by: Justin Freeman on Friday, January 17, 2020

A Message From Geovanny Sarmiento, VP of Community Engagement & Inclusion 

Census 2020 is Coming and it’s Much More than Just a Head Count

Every 10 years since 1790 our country has made the effort to get a head count of everyone residing in the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Island areas of the United States. I’m working hard on behalf of the Chamber and City of Rogers to lead the process of making sure we have an accurate and complete count in our community. Together, we have formed a Complete Count Committee to support the U.S. Census 2020 effort. We all understand that the census is much more than just a head count. It helps determine where to build new schools, hospitals and businesses; how federal funding is distributed; and how congressional seats are apportioned. It also helps us see how our community has changed over time.

Population Count Affects Community Funding
It is no secret that our population has grown in record numbers over the past decade and today we continue to welcome 30+ people every day to our region (Source: NWA Council and Census data). Having an accurate count is more important than ever as population totals affect funding for our community. There is approximately $675 billion in federal funding distributed to communities each year. If we miscount just a few thousand people residing in our area, we could miss hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal funding. This funding is critical for health services, housing, schools, public safety, new business attraction and planning for future growth.

Understanding the 2020 Census
In 2020, for the first time ever, the U.S. Census Bureau will accept responses online starting in March, but you may still respond by phone or mail if you prefer. Respond online at 2020census.gov.

In June and July 2020, the Census Bureau will be deploying Census-takers to go door-to-door to count people who have not yet responded via online, phone or mail.

Be aware that Census takers are employed by the Census Bureau and will provide proof that they are official government personnel. Strict federal law protects your census responses. It is against the law for any Census Bureau employee to disclose or publish any census information that identifies an individual or business. The Census Bureau will never ask for your social security number, bank or credit card account numbers, money or donations, or anything on behalf of a political party.

How You Can Help Us
Our number one goal is to have an accurate count. Our local leadership is committed to making sure no one is left out, especially our harder-to-reach communities.  We will be making an extra effort to reach out before and during the census-taking to our minority communities in Rogers, Lowell and Northwest Arkansas to reduce the risks of undercounting.

As a community leader, your help is needed and appreciated. We encourage you to use your centers of influence to start discussions about the 2020 Census. Make it part of your meeting agendas if you serve on boards or preside over company meetings. Share the consequences of not having an accurate count and how it affects our needs as a community.

Let me know if you would like to be part of the Complete Count Committee or share your ideas by emailing me at geovanny@rogerslowell.com.

WAYS CENSUS DATA ARE USED

  • Drawing federal, state, and local legislative districts.
  • Attracting new businesses to state and local areas.
  • Distributing Federal Funds
  • Forecasting future transportation needs for all segments of the population.
  • Planning for hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and the location of other health services.
  • Forecasting future housing needs for all segments of the population.
  • Directing funds for services for people in poverty.
  • Designing public safety strategies.
  • Development of rural areas.
  • Developing assistance programs for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
  • Creating maps to speed emergency services to households in need of assistance.
  • Delivering goods and services to local markets.
  • Designing facilities for people with disabilities, the elderly, or children.
  • Reapportioning seats in the House of Representatives.
  • Drawing school district boundaries.
  • Planning budgets for government at all levels.
  • Planning health and educational services for people with disabilities.
  • Understanding labor supply.
  • Planning for faith-based organizations.
  • Planning for school projects.
  • Developing adult education programs.

To ensure you and our community are counted, learn more about the 2020 Census by visiting 2020census.gov. 

A Message from Jon Moran, SVP of Government Affairs

The Importance of Census Data for Redistricting Northwest Arkansas

After the U.S. Census Bureau conducts the census every ten years, it turns its data over to the states for the purpose of redrawing Congressional districts, a process commonly known as redistricting. This means that, at some point in 2021, the district lines for the four U.S House of Representatives’ seats will be redrawn by the Arkansas Legislature. The district lines for the Arkansas House and Senate will also be redrawn, but this will be done by the Arkansas State Board of Apportionment, comprised of the Governor, the Arkansas Attorney General, and the Arkansas Secretary of State.

Representation is Distributed Proportionately
The number of senators allowed to serve in the Arkansas Senate is constitutionally set at 35 members, and the number of representatives is set at 100 members. As Arkansas’s populace grows, it is anticipated that legislative districts in the more densely populous and growing areas of the state will become more compact, needing more representation. Legislative districts of the state that have experienced a population loss will need to expand in area. For an area to gain representatives, another area will be compelled to lose them. This is meant to assure that representation is distributed proportionately.

Impacts of Benton County Population Increase
The first election after the redistricting process is complete will be the 2022 general election. In that election, you can expect the current Arkansas House and Senate districts in Benton County to shrink in size and become more compact. The increase in population since the last census in Benton County alone will very likely lead to the creation of one or more new seats for the county in the Arkansas House. It is also a possibility that the current Senate districts in Benton County will become more compact as well, which could likely lead to the pickup of an additional, partial Senate district for the county as surrounding districts that currently stop at the county line will have to expand to pick up population.

With an increase in residents in Benton County comes increased representation in the Arkansas General Assembly. This presents a big question as to where these new legislative districts will be located. An even bigger question asks who will run for these newly created House seats in Benton County. The incumbents from both major political parties, the political pressure groups, and other politically active organizations that exist in Arkansas will certainly be paying close attention and seeking to influence the redistricting process. 

The Redistricting Challenge Ahead of Us
As members of the regional business community in Northwest Arkansas, we should also be concerned about redistricting. The employers and their employees who make up this business community come from across the political spectrum, and that is a healthy and good thing for our regional economy. However, it is imperative that the business community in Northwest Arkansas become involved and engaged in the redistricting process to ensure that the future representatives we send to Little Rock from our region continue to represent our best interests.

If Benton County and Northwest Arkansas want to remain the fastest growing area in Arkansas and continue to lead one of the fastest growing regions in the country, then we will need to continually attract the world-class talent that want to live, work, raise their children, and locate their businesses here in Northwest Arkansas. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to ensure that Northwest Arkansas provides a welcoming environment that will enhance the quality of life for everyone and provide a healthy environment for business to flourish.

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