W

hat goes up doesn’t necessarily come down.

At least, when it comes to the Census.

The Census, an attempt to count every person in the country, dates to the birth of our nation. Mandated by the Constitution, it’s conducted once every 10 years. There are no do-overs. Once it’s completed, we live with the results for the next decade.

In the coming days those of us who get “snail mail’’ at our homes will be receiving an official envelope inviting participation in the Census. It deserves the attention and prompt response from everyone in Jackson County.

Those responses will help shape the next decade in Jackson County.

Next time you travel around the county, take a moment to slow down and think about the impact of tax dollars on your life and the lives of those you love. How are the roads? What’s the state of public transportation for those who need it? Are services for seniors readily accessible? How about child care?

Those are the nuts and bolts Census data will be used for in coming years. In Jackson County, every person counted in the Census represents about $1,600 in annual spending. That’s $16,000 over a decade.

Where does that money go? Grants and direct payments based on Census data go to social services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Program (WIC), Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), State children’s Health Insurance (S-CHIP) and Head Start/Early Head Start. Funding for foster care comes from Census data, as do health grants and the Home and Community Care Block Grant utilized by the Department on Aging to fund a number of their programs.

For Jackson County Public Schools, Census data translates to about $2.5 million in funding for language programs, services for handicapped students, academic enrichment, special needs and basic programs. Census data is also a key driver of nutrition programs.

Census returns mean a lot to seniors, a lot to students and to young children. We can’t stress the latter enough, and children up to the age of 4 are at a higher risk of being undercounted. During the 2010 Census the Census Bureau estimated 25,000 young children weren’t counted in North Carolina, the eight-highest undercount in the nation.

Should that happen again, that translates to $400 million off the table over a decade that should have been dedicated to a vulnerable population.

If people don’t get counted, it’s not like money is being saved. The tax dollars work their way up the pipeline to be reallocated. 

If the Census isn’t accurate, we’re shorting ourselves of funding we deserve – that we’ve paid for – and hurting our community.

We’re not asking for more than our fair share. But we are asking for nothing less than our fair share.

What goes up needs to come back down.

Check your mail. Respond to the Census.

Step up for your community.