While the census may seem abstract to some, everyone should know the importance of the once-a-decade population count. It impacts funding for programs and facilities for schools, public safety, and parks and recreation. It is also used to add or subtract congressional seats and determine congressional boundaries.
To add interest to Census 2020, the Palm Beach County Census League is inviting municipalities with a population of over 30,000 to participate in a friendly competition to boost the number of responses to this year’s effort.
“The census is of paramount importance,” Royal Palm Beach Mayor Fred Pinto said. “[The competition] is an effort to make it more real for residents and to make them aware of the census.”
Wellington Planning, Zoning & Building Director Tim Stillings said that there are three ways to respond to the census: online at www.my2020census.gov, by phone at (844) 330-2020 or by responding by mail. He said that if you don’t respond, census workers will come to your home and knock on your door to ask the questions.
“The objective is to count everyone, even babies, as to where you rested your head on April 1, 2020,” Stillings said. “It is completely confidential and no financial information is gathered.”
A higher census participation means more federal funding for needed social, community and neighborhood programs over the next decade.
“This is it for 10 years, there is no redo,” Wellington Village Councilman John McGovern explained. “It determines who gets funding that is allocated and makes sure that we get all that we deserve. That includes tax money coming back to us and how many state and federal representatives we get.”
McGovern expects there to be 11 communities vying for the championship trophy and bragging rights. “The better each community does, the better it is for the county as a whole,” he said.
“It is a win, win, win situation,” Pinto added.
The competition began Wednesday, June 17 and runs until Oct. 31. It is expected to be friendly but fierce. The winning municipality will be determined by the greatest percent increase of responses in the census during that period.
The winning community also gets the honor of having a representative from each of the other municipalities attend its council meeting to present personal congratulations and the trophy, wearing the shirts, hats, branding and “bling” with the logo of the winner.
The competition is patterned after the “Reading for the Record” program that has been successfully building awareness of the importance of reading books.
Municipalities invited to participate in addition to Royal Palm Beach and Wellington include Boca Raton, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Greenacres, Jupiter, Lake Worth Beach, Palm Beach Gardens, Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach.
“The census keeps us on track,” Pinto said. “This is a great idea to get more people to respond and spur them on.”
Florida’s current Census 2020 self-response rate is 58.7 percent, which is below the national average of 61.5 percent.
Palm Beach County’s self-response rate is 59.4 percent, with Wellington coming in at 66.9 percent and Royal Palm Beach at 69.9 percent.
Learn more about the census competition in the video below: