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Census participation impacts needs of pandemic and future health needs of Stafford

From Stafford County:

Decisions that affect access to healthcare are often made years in advance, using data from the United States Census. Population data is used to inform decisions on where to put a hospital, how many doctors are needed in an area, what kinds of public services are required, and more. As the Coronavirus has shown us, having accurate and precise data is critical to being able to meet the needs of the sick. There is still time to respond to the 2020 U.S. Census and ensure that Stafford County’s population is accurately represented. Because of COVID-19, the deadline for responding was extended to October 31, 2020.

 “Stafford’s residents have done a great job – we have a 75.5% response rate, which surpasses our goal and participation in the 2010 Census,” said Stafford Deputy County Administrator and Chairman of the 2020 Local Complete Count Census Committee Donna Krauss. “Often, the last folks counted are the ones who need the most help. We ask for everyone’s assistance in making sure your neighbors, friends and family get counted so we have the resources we need over the next 10 years until the next Census.”

The U.S. Constitution requires an accurate count of the nation’s population every 10 years through a nationwide census. In addition, the Census Bureau collects more detailed socio-economic data on U.S. households each year through the American Community Survey (ACS), which, by law, is part of the decennial Census. Together, the Census and the ACS produce some of the nation’s best data for understanding the health of people living in the United States.

The ACS, the only source of reliable, comparable community-level data, helps leaders locate health facilities and Health Professional Shortage Areas, plan for essential services, and hire medical professionals. Census data assist in the delivery and research of geographically driven health systems. Billions of dollars are allocated to programs that impact Stafford County, such as Medicaid, Medicare Part B, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Decisions made now by Congress and federal agencies—including the Commerce Department, the Census Bureau, and the Office of Management and Budget—will determine whether planning and funding are sufficient to meet needs. Congress must oversee census preparations and allocate funding in the final years of the decade to ensure that the 2020 Census counts all communities equally well, including historically undercounted population groups. Specific populations, such as minorities and lower disadvantaged groups, are more likely to be missed by the Census, which can adversely impact the allocation of resources to people and places that need them.

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