Thank you to each of you who wished me a “happy birthday” this past Friday. Hitting the age of 50 was pretty special as the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy worked with the OK, Let’s Count program through the Oklahoma Department of Commerce to assist the U.S. Census Bureau with an event.
We were honored to have Gov. Kevin Stitt, Human Services Secretary Justin Brown, and Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt attend. This was held in conjunction with a visit to Oklahoma by U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham as part of the “Sprint to the Finish” campaign before September 30 deadline for the Census to stop counting.
It is vitally important for every household to fill out Census forms. More than one trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) annually is divided across the United States based on population counts. That figures up to about $1,700 per person allocated based on your Census response.
Simply put, if you do not fill out the Census, Oklahoma will not get its share of the federal taxpayer dollars we send Washington, D.C. This count lasts for 10 years, so if you don’t respond to the Census, your taxes will go to some other state until 2030.
That is bad enough on its own. When programs fall short of funding because people did not fill out their Census, state tax dollars are needed to subsidize the missing funding. So, it’s a double-whammy: Oklahomans won’t get back all their federal tax dollars to which we are entitled, and we have to make up the difference in higher state and local taxes.
Additionally, Census information is used by businesses to determine if they would like to move to a community. Many cities with active economic development and job creation efforts depend on these data to help attract quality jobs to our communities and our state.
Other states have seen the need to increase their count and invested significant dollars ensuring their residents follow their constitutional obligation to be counted. California, fearing the loss of congressional seats to states like Oklahoma, invested more than $180 million in promoting their state’s Census effort. Texas has followed suit in just the last few weeks by dedicating $15 million in a last-minute push to get residents to submit their information.
Oklahoma, as of Monday, has moved up to 38th in the state rank, with 93.3 percent of households responding either through self-response or enumerators hired by the U.S. Census Bureau visiting homes to collect the data. While we lingered in the low 40s for months, our state has seen a recent jump, partly due to collaborative efforts like we saw on Friday.
While Oklahoma did not invest dollars like other states, our state Department of Commerce has done tremendous work in promoting the effort. They established a website – okletscount.org – to learn more about the Census and be linked to the federal site to fill out the Census online.
OICA has also been proud to run a “Census Community Challenge” since the middle of May to encourage communities to respond to the count. We offer a $250 donation to the school district in the community with the most improved rate. We have seen some tremendous jumps in response due to this. We hope your residents will have finish strong to provide that recognition for being the best community in the state to respond to the Census with this competition.
Please do not assume someone has filled out the Census, as two of my friends last week told me they responded due to my request, and I would have bet they had already replied. We are all in this together. Help us finish strong and support Oklahoma with this “Sprint to the Finish!”