Community leaders, organizers and stakeholders met Wednesday afternoon to discuss the importance of the 2020 census and to brainstorm to get every person in the county counted.

Enid Regional Development Alliance Executive Director Lisa Powell welcomed those in the attendance and thanked them to taking to to discuss such an important topic.

“It’s maybe not the most exciting topic,” she said, “until we understand why it’s so important.”

Powell said in the last census, Enid was about 200 people shy of a population of 50,000. She said that threshold is important for businesses who sometimes base decisions to locate in a community on that number.

“For all of you from Enid who want Panera Bread or a Target, those retailers determine whether or not they want to locate here based on that count,” she said.

The census also determines how much federal funding is received by each state, as well as representation in Washington, D.C. Census counts determine funding for medical assistance, programs, grants, Head Start, SNAP, WIC and highway planning and construction.

Each person’s census value in Oklahoma accounts for about $1,675. If Enid were to reach a population of $50,000, that would mean $83.75 million in funds to the area.

Former Oklahoma representative Joe Dorman spoke to the group as chairman of the Oklahoma Nonprofit Council Committee for the U.S. Census.

Dorman, too, emphasized the importance of the upcoming census.

“It’s very important we ramp up that conversation,” he said. “I feel like Oklahoma is ahead of the game, this time around.”

He said the information submitted remains confidential for 72 years after a census is completed. He said everyone who lives in an area, a U.S. citizen or not, needs to be counted because everyone uses the same taxpayer funded services.

“We want to ensure that every single household, that is a legitimate household, is counted,” he said.

Dorman also noted the number of people also will determine how they are represented at the federal and state levels.

“California has invested 187 million state dollars into the census count. Most states are putting in a few million to several hundred thousand. A lot of states are not putting any in,” he said. “In 2011, because of redistricting, my House district grew from part of three counties to part of five countries. I had to cover a much larger area to get that equal amount of people covered.”

Dorman said he would have worked harder as a representative to ensure more of his constituents were counted and retain the size of his district.

He said a decade ago, Oklahoma had one of the worst response rates to the census in the country.

“People are counted whether you like it or not. The resources they use, whether going to the hospital or some public entity that helps them, the cost goes out,” Dorman said. “It’s important to have an accurate count because taxpayer dollars will have to go to cover those costs.”

He said the hardest to reach groups were: children 0 to 5, highly mobile people, racial and ethnic minorities, non-English speakers, low-income people, people experiencing homelessness, undocumented immigrants, people who distrust the government, LGBTQ people, people with mental or physical disabilities and people who do not live in a traditional housing.

He told those in the audience whose organizations have volunteers they could help reach those groups.

“If you have volunteers, encourage them to be (census) employees,” he said. “If they don’t need the money, they can donate that paycheck back to the nonprofit.

“We were one of the worst in 2010. We can be one of the best in 2020,” Dorman said. “The resources we’ll see back in this truly are tenfold with what we’ll see in services back in Enid.”

Powell said the group still wants to meet with those in the community who can reach some of the more-difficult-to-count populations.

“Those that we want to have involved is anybody who has an influence, or a reach, to any of our hard-to-reach populations,” she said.

The group will meet again 10-11:30 a.m. Dec. 18, 2019, with the location to be determined.

Story provided by Enid News & Eagle

Written by: Cass Rains