April might seem like a while away, but for people working to get the most accurate count for this year’s census, it’s right around the corner.

Data from the census is used to allocate federal funding down to the local level, whether it’s for roads and infrastructure, education or programs like Medicaid and Medicare.

That’s why members of city administration including Director of Human Services Tamara Rosser and Lynchburg City Schools Deputy Superintendent Ben Copeland spoke with people at an informational meeting on the census Monday evening.

“There are significant programs that are decided on at the Washington level and at the Richmond level, and the funding that’s determined to come into those programs is based on the locality’s census counts,” Copeland said.

Rosser said a vast majority of her department’s funding is funneled based on a formula from census data.

The information also dictates how areas are represented in Congress and how they’re divided into electoral districts.

People will receive a mailer April 1 asking them to take part in the 2020 Census. They can respond by mail, phone or online — the latter two methods started in the 2010 Census. If someone doesn’t respond, census workers with proof of their role and badges will reach out to them and visit residences to try and get the information.

The information collected is confidential, de-identified and doesn’t require Social Security numbers or bank information.

Special measures, such as counts conducted at shelters, food outreach centers and a program to help count separated families or people living in temporary situations will help ensure everyone living in the city is accounted for, according to Census Partnership Specialist Robert Fowler.

Many people attending the meeting Monday expressed concern for residents who are not trusting of the government and don’t want their data shared.

Assistant City Manager John Hughes, who heads Lynchburg’s Complete Count Committee, said efforts will be ramping up during the next few months to remind people of the process and its importance. The city will be increasing advertising for the census and working on community partnerships by meeting with leaders whom people trust.

“The main message that we’re getting out is that that’s exactly what we need: to count every individual within the locality where they live,” he said.

People also can realize a temporary job opportunity by helping out as an enumerator. Marilyn Martin, director of the Lynchburg Public Library, said anyone interested can apply there.

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Rachel Mahoney covers courts for The News & Advance. Reach her at (434) 385-5554.

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