Poor 2020 census response would hurt county

If Lycoming County doesn’t improve its response rate in the coming 2020 census, it will lose the fair apportionment of the federal government’s $675 billion discretionary spending, according to census officials Thursday.

The census starts April 1, 2020.

Historically, Lycoming County’s average non-response rate is 24.1 percent, which pales in comparison to Tioga County’s non-response rate of 14 to 20 percent.

Old Lycoming Township already felt a bad census sting when in 2010, it was downgraded from a class-1 township to a class 2.

The county receives federal funds for nearly all public services — infrastructure, water, sewer, recreation and more, as well as a multitude of grants.

The Lycoming County commissioners agreed to create a resolution of support.

Federal money is especially needed for infrastructure, said Commissioner Rick Mirabito.

“It’s important for the public to understand. Federal funds are allocated based on how many people use the infrastructure,” he said. “When we don’t get counted we are basically giving money somewhere else that should come to us.”

Additionally, the 2020 census stays with the county and municipalities for 10 years.

“It’s not an option, it’s a civic duty,” he said.

Michael Burger, census partnership specialist for Tioga, Sullivan, Lycoming and Bradford counties, said he has been traveling around his district letting organizations and governmental bodies know the requirements.

This year, people will be able to respond to the census with a phone call, on the internet or — as is traditional — with a mail-back response.

“Everybody needs to understand the value of the process, the vested interest and what needs to happen within the next 9 months,” he said.

The United States will mobilize what will be the largest peacetime hiring in its history to count the largest populous increase, estimated at 25 million — from 305 million people in 2010 to around 330 million people.

About 1000 Lycoming County citizens will be hired to help in the count, and two complete count committees will be formed to give proper administration.

Colleges in the Williamsport area will start their count in February 2020, with a focus on getting the number of commuters and off-campus residents.

In March 2020, people will begin to receive further information on how to be counted.

As a Lycoming County citizen himself, Burger said it’s his goal to get the non-response rate under 20 percent.

“If the count is not done accurately and effectively, per municipality or the county, that’s lost money,” he said.