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Filling out Census form important to us all

Officials are urging Letcher County residents to complete their Census forms, warning that the grants and federal help are based on the number of people in each city and county, and could be endangered if the population is under-counted.

A joint statement put out by U.S. Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers, Letcher County Judge/Executive Terry Adams, Whitesburg Mayor James W. Craft and Jenkins Mayor Todd Depriest said SOAR (Saving Our Appalachia Region) is partnering with local governments to increase participation here.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Kentucky ranked 14th in Census participation with only a little more than 60.9 percent of households responding. In Letcher County, the participation rate is only 43.1 percent.

While there are no consequences for people who don’t complete the census, there could be major consequences for government services. Letcher County Treasurer D.J. Frazier said the county currently has a $3.5 million grant for tourism, it just applied for a $600,000 grant for a Teleworks center, and gets money every year for emergency management and for disaster aid, as well as state road aid and other state funding. All depends on the population of the county as determined by the Census.

Frazier said the federal government alone awards $675 billion in grants a year.

“There’s a lot of money that we stand to lose,” she said.

Jenkins Mayor Todd Depriest said recovery from the economic impact of the coronavirus will depend on getting an accurate count from the Census.

“It’s not just federal money that’s coming down, economic growth and everything can be tied to it,” he said.

Rogers said he and the local leaders are challenging the region to beat 2010’s Census participation rate of 57 percent.

“You count — your whole family matters to us, so we’re teaming up to make sure you aren’t left out of our census count for southern and eastern Kentucky,” Rogers said in a written statement. “When we seek funding to fix our roads, water lines, support our schools, improve healthcare and boost job creation, the number of people impacted by each project matters. So, as we plan for the future, we want to ensure that you are covered.”

The Constitution requires that Congress provide for a Census every 10 years. The Census conducts other surveys related to economics in the interim, but the decennial Census is the only one to count every person in the country. Normally, Census employees go door to door to make sure people who didn’t fill out the form get counted, but because of the pandemic that can’t happen this year. Also, some residents don’t receive a form in the mail.

“People with post office boxes don’t get a census form. If they have a post office box, they can either go online or call in,” Frazier said.

Officials are urging residents to complete the Census online at 2020Census.gov or by calling (844) 330-2020. The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete.

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