The U.S. Constitution requires that every 10 years a census be taken of every person in the U.S. These population counts are a big deal – for two very important reasons.

First of all, the census counts are used to determine the number of congressional representatives for each state and each state’s allocation in the Electoral College. The data also is used to redraw boundaries for congressional, legislative and local government districts.

Secondly, the data is used to make decisions on how $675 million in federal funding will be distributed to states to support such programs as Medicare and Medicaid, student loans, food stamps, highway and transportation funding, free and reduced-price school meals and low-income housing assistance.

The census also provides governments and businesses with information they use to make decisions on serving communities and customers.

As you can see, census data affects our lives at many levels. Making sure everyone is counted helps our state, counties, towns, cities and villages get their fair share.

That’s why Florence Mayor Steve Holt emphasized the important of the 2020 census when he gave his “State of the City” update Monday to local Rotarians.

“It is absolutely critical to us as a city, and to the state of Alabama, because we’re at risk,” Holt said of this year’s count. “We need everybody counted.”

Holt then gave a very real example of what could happen if Alabama’s census count ends up being less than expected. Current projections indicated Alabama is one of eight possible states that could lose a congressional seat as a result of slowing growth rates. The two states most likely to gain seats are Texas and Florida.

The state’s best hope of avoiding the loss of a congressional seat is to make there isn’t an undercount in the 2020 census.

Officials are hopeful one important change will help boost participation in the 2020 census: Next year’s county will be largely completed online. The majority of households will get an invitation asking them to complete the questionnaire by computer or smartphone. Others will receive a mail-in form, or will be visited in person by a census taker.

This once-a-decade effort affects our lives at many levels. We encourage everyone in the Shoals to take the time to complete their census forms – either online or with the assistance of census taker. Just remember this important point: We won’t get another chance to “be counted” for another 10 years.

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