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The Blue Mountain Complete Count Committee is conducting the 2020 Census in our area. For more information on their work, visit bmccc2020.org. For more info on the 2020 Census, visit census.gov.

Every 10 years, the United States conducts its Census with the goal of counting every resident. The 2020 Census will count each person living in the country as of April 1, and for the first time will include an option for responding online.

In March, each household in the U.S. will receive a letter or postcard from the Census Bureau with instructions on how to participate. Starting in May, Census workers will go to door to door to count households that did not self-report. The count will be finalized by Dec. 31.

The results of the Census are important for residents of Walla Walla and Washington state, since local, state, and federal governments use Census data to determine how tax dollars and other resources are distributed.

Washington receives approximately $13.7 billion in federal funds for a variety of human service, community development, and health programs. Each missed household in the Census count costs our state approximately $4,800 in federal funds.

The Washington State Legislature allocates approximately $200 million in state funds for programs based on Census data, and local governments such as the city of Walla Walla use this data to determine where development should take place and how local dollars should be spent.

Local businesses and nonprofits use Census data to decide where to target growth, create jobs, and offer services. It is also used to inform grant proposals and other projects designed to raise the quality of life in our community.

The data collected also helps to guide the work of Washington’s Redistricting Committee to ensure legislative districts are drawn fairly so our community is represented in Olympia and Washington, D.C.

Some residents may feel nervous about giving information about themselves and their families to the government. But it’s important to understand U.S. law prevents the Census Bureau from releasing any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business — even to law enforcement agencies. The information you provide is used only to produce statistics.

The census offers a unique opportunity to be counted and shape our community’s future. This opportunity comes once every 10 years, so make sure you plan to get counted in 2020.

Brenden Koch is the communications manager for the city of Walla Walla. Contact him at bkoch@wallawallawa.gov.