Noting that the Census serves as a basis for the distribution of more than $675 billion annually in state and federal grants, Ocean County is getting ready to create its Complete Count Committee to assist in getting the most accurate count in the upcoming 2020 Census.
“This is a very important step in the process,” said Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, who is leading the county’s 2020 Census Count efforts. “This Committee plays an important role in the Census allowing us to leverage local knowledge and resources to educate communities and promote the Census through locally based, targeted outreach efforts.”
Vicari presented the plan to create the Committee to the Board of Freeholders during its Feb. 27 workshop meeting. The Board is expected to pass a resolution formally creating the committee at its March 6 meeting at the Ocean County Administration Building, Hooper Avenue, here.
The Complete Count Committee is made up of about 25 to 30 individuals from local government and community organizations with close ties to the residents of Ocean County.
“A major purpose of the Committee will be to assist the Census Bureau in reaching out to residents that traditionally have had a low response rate in completing a census questionnaire,” Vicari said. “It’s important everyone is counted, every household. Participation is critical, as the results determine Congressional representation and also how federal and state funding is distributed.”
This funding is used for critical infrastructure improvements, senior services, public health, education, transportation and Community Development Block grants.
Vicari said the County has already been participating in preliminary Census activities with the U.S. Bureau of the Census and Ocean County municipalities.
“All of these steps will help insure an accurate population count is taken for the upcoming Census in 2020,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Virginia E. Haines. “The work leading up to the actual count is crucial.”
Vicari said the County needs the time to raise awareness and educate its residents about the importance of being counted in the census.
Vicari, who also served as census count liaison for the 2010 count, noted that Ocean County also is unique because of the number of snowbirds – people that spend winters elsewhere – that live in the County.
“The guiding principal for the Census is ‘usual residence’ which is defined as the place where the person lives and sleeps most of the time,” Vicari said. “So it is important our snowbirds who live in Ocean County most of the year are counted.”
Vicari said because it has such a big effect on local funding, the census data collected must be accurate.
In 2010, the census data directly affected how more than $300 billion per year in federal and state funding was allocated to communities.
“That was more than $3 trillion over a 10-year period,” he said. “Those numbers have now more than doubled.”
He added that census data also determines where Community Development Block Grant funds are allocated.
CDBG programs provide assistance to municipalities with infrastructure improvements, handicapped access, transportation, and senior services. In addition Census counts help with funding for such programs as the First Time Homebuyer Program, HOME Housing Rehabilitation Program and Tenant-based Rental Assistance.
“From forming the Complete Count Committee to planning activities that will help to engage all of our citizens to be counted, we take this preparation very seriously,” Vicari said. “It has a long-term effect on our representation on the federal level and also the funds we receive for key programs that provide benefits to our towns and citizens.”