The Census is a survey the federal government conducts every 10 years and has simple questions, such as how many people are in your household and what is your address. You may be tempted to throw out the slip in the mail reminding you to fill it out or ignore the Census taker who goes to your home in case you haven’t completed the survey. But this quick survey can have major consequences — good and bad — for the towns, cities, state and region we live in, depending on whether or not we fill out the Census.

Why is it important to fill out the Census?

This data helps inform which communities get funding based on need and population size; provides emergency relief workers and 911 systems better estimates of where resources will be needed and how to be prepared based on the unique aspects of each community; and helps inform entrepreneurs about demographics to determine if there’s a market for their small business, according to Census.gov.

Official 2020 US Census logo US Census Bureau

In addition, Maine redistricting is coming up soon, and census data determines congressional and legislative districts. If we don’t have accurate numbers of population density, folks won’t get the representation they deserve.

How do you fill out the Census?

Most people should have received a notice by mail inviting them to fill out the form. With that information, you can go to www.my2020census.gov to begin. If you think you have not received an invitation to complete a form, you can still respond online or by calling 844-330-2020 between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. You can also call that number if you don’t have access to a computer. The last day to fill out the Census is Sept. 30, 2020. That is just about a month away, so please do not hesitate to fill out your Census and talk to your family, friends and neighbors about it.

We really need to make a concerted effort this year to fill out the Census and spread the word about it, because our community is currently behind.

According to the Census response rate tool, Arundel’s and Alfred’s Census completion rates are both about 63 percent and Kennebunkport is only at a 40 percent completion rate. Biddeford is at 60 percent. Dayton is at 75 percent (Go, Dayton!) and Lyman is at 62 percent.

Maine is ranked number 48 in terms of completion rates compared to all other states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. York County’s self-response rate is about on-par with Maine’s self-response rate (58 percent versus 56 percent), but neighboring Cumberland County has us beat by 7 percent. Cumberland County has a response rate of 65 percent.

Taking in this information should be the kick-start we all need to talk to everyone we know about the Census, especially during times like these. COVID-19 has completely changed many things we take for granted. Community resources needed to be pooled to support people devastated by the pandemic and to protect front-line workers.

Businesses, schools and government have had to adapt to ensure that they have adequate safety measures. Our students will be returning to school soon, some in person. These students and teachers will need to be supported in ways we could never have imagined, such as with access to special equipment, materials and tools to encourage the learning process despite the risk of COVID-19.

What does this have to do with Census?

The Census can impact school district funding, which can affect the size of schools and the benefits schools receive. I know thinking about our kids and our teachers helps inspire me to keep talking about the Census to others, even though I’ve already filled out mine. Try to think of some ways you can encourage others to fill out the Census over these next few weeks — even if it means beating Saco or Cumberland County at their completion rates. It’s an important way we can support our community right now.

State Senator Susan Deschambault represents Senate District 32, Alfred, Arundel, Biddeford, Dayton, Kennebunkport and Lyman. She can be reached at 207-287-1515 or email [email protected]

Comments are not available on this story.