In just under one year, the U.S. Census Bureau will be contacting Oklahomans — via phone, internet, mail and in-person surveys — to seek their participation in the 2020 U.S. Census. The results are secure and confidential, and it is vital that every Oklahoman who is contacted participate.

Nationally, the results will be used to determine how to distribute over $675 billion in resources to states and communities. It is also used by communities to plan for a variety of resident needs, including new roads, schools and emergency services. The results determine how many U.S. representatives each state is allotted. Businesses also use the data when making decisions on where to locate.

Because an accurate census is so important, community groups and local government associations are working to raise awareness about the importance of participation. Our coalition, Count Me IN Oklahoma, continues to grow and includes the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, the Oklahoma Municipal League, the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Policy Institute and the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits.

OICA is involved because census results will directly impact children. U.S. Census data influences the distribution of almost $16 billion for Title I grants that help local educational agencies serve more than 24 million students in low-income families and communities. It also helps direct more than $12 billion for special education grants, along with funds for the Head Start school lunch program and grants for improving teacher quality.

Census data is also used to support health initiatives. In 2016, Community Health Centers (CHC) served more than 25 million patients in urban and rural locations. CHC are often the only source of care available to low-income patients and are playing an increasingly important role in providing treatment for people caught up in the opioid epidemic.

Naturally, the government does not provide assistance or grants for people it doesn’t know exist, so it’s very important we get accurate figures.

Getting accurate results can be hard. College-aged young adults are notoriously tricky to count, because they often assume incorrectly that they are being reported by their parents. If they are living on campus on April 1 of next year, however, they are responsible for representing themselves.

Both rural and urban areas also come with unique challenges. As a former Rush Springs representative, I can attest to the difficulty of trying to canvas a rural neighborhood on foot. Similarly, large apartment complexes in big cities can be hard for surveyors to penetrate. If either of these accurately describe your household, please take extra care to be responsive to survey requests.

All of us should remember, there is nothing partisan or agenda-driven about taking an accurate headcount of our population. We all want properly funded roads, schools, and health care programs, and all of that hinges, in part, on the results of the U.S. Census. Please do your part! Learn more at www.census.gov.

Finally, I would like to remind readers of our upcoming Child Advocacy Day, hosted in partnership with Let’s Fix This, on Wednesday, May 8 at the Oklahoma State Capitol. We will start the day with advocacy training before meeting with lawmakers. Please be sure to register at OICA.org. If you represent a non-profit interested in hosting a booth, please email me at jdorman@oica.org. It is sure to be a fun and important day for all participants!