The U.S. census is going digital for the first time this year, but notices to self-report are still scheduled to be mailed in mid-March.

“Census Day, April 1, 2020, is right around the corner,” said Sue Parrigin, a Bowling Green city commissioner and head of the local census Complete Count Committee. “In mid-March, people can expect a notice in the mail and this time, the notice is a little bit different. This notice is to invite people to go online and take the census for the first time in the United States. You can fill out the information on your smartphone, tablet or laptop. That should make life so much easier for so many people.

“If you put it off until after mid-March, you will get a paper copy of the census in the mail,” Parrigin said. “That is due no later than July 30. You have the April 1 deadline and somewhere around May 1, if you have not submitted, that is when we deploy the census takers. They will knock on your door, and they will be very persistent. This is one of the most important things that we do each decade is to count our population.”

Parrigin said filling out the census is important.

“It is all about representation at the state and federal levels,” Parrigin said. “It is also how we receive federal funding. It is right at $1,000 per person that flows from the federal government. Imagine a household of five. With $1,000 per person per community per census year, that is $50,000. If you reverse that and have a family of five that is not counted or two families of five not counted, that is $50,000 or $100,000 that does not flow into our community.”

Parrigin said anyone who is living in Bowling Green or Warren County on April 1 gets counted as local residents. That includes students and even homeless people.

“Students live here for more than six months out of the year,” she said.

The committee has set a goal this census to have a self-reporting rate at 82 percent. “Ten years ago, we had a 77 percent self-report rate,” Parrigin said. “That 82 percent is very conservative with the online option.”

Parrigin also said the online option saves in costs that it takes to complete the census.

“This is an expensive undertaking from the federal government,” she said. “We are even expending funds from local city and county governments to make sure the word gets out. It is worth the small investment. ... The self reporting is the least expensive and the most efficient way to go ahead and report.”

Julie Trovillion, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, said “it is going to be easier than ever” to respond to the census thanks to the online option.

The first census enumeration took place in Toksook Bay, Alaska, this month.

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