Our View: Take a moment to shape the future
The variable message board sign at Eagle is lit up with an admonishment — only 16% of Eagle County households have responded to the 2020 Census.
That’s is a ridiculously low response in a part of the state that is trailing Colorado turnout. The 3rd Congressional District, which encompasses western Eagle County, has Colorado’s lowest response rate at 47.2 percent. That’s more than 20 percentage points lower than the highest reporting area of the state — the 7th Congressional District at 67.7 percent.
Why do these numbers matter? Because the Census matters. The 2020 Census is important because it will determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, inform hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding, and provide data that will impact communities for the next decade.
There’s a lot riding on this once-in-a-decade event, so it is in local residents’ best interests to make sure everyone who lives in Eagle County is accounted for in the census.
It’s not like responding to the census is an onerous task. It takes about five minutes and can be done online, by phone, or by mail. And certainly, in these days of COVID-19, we all have plenty of time at home on our hands.
Certainly, laziness likely plays a role in the lackluster local census response. Hopefully, Eagle County residents will make the small time commitment it takes to complete the questionnaire.
But lethargy isn’t the only reason why people aren’t responding. There is also a matter of trust. There are many Americans today who don’t trust the government and don’t want to share their information. We aren’t the arbitrators of whether people’s fears are founded, but we don’t believe that opting out of census participation is a smart strategy.
The census is simply a count of how many people live in individual households as of April 1, 2020. It doesn’t address citizenship status or gun ownership or any of America’s hot-button topics. It doesn’t seek financial information or personal opinions. As noted on the census webpage “The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. In fact, every employee takes an oath to protect your personal information for life.”
In the end, failure to participate in the census robs your community of representation and government funding. As we recover from the days of COVID-19, government aid will likely be a vital concern so Eagle County needs an accurate count to ensure it qualifies for whatever assistance is available
It’s not too late to participate in the census. In fact, the deadline for response is Oct. 31, 2020. But the sooner local census workers can get responses from easy-to-count populations, the more time they can devote to hard-to-reach groups.
So, since no one is going out to dinner and the movies tonight, take a few minutes to do something important and fill out a census response. As the effort’s tagline proclaims, take a moment to shape the future.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Ross Leonhart, Advertising Director Holli Snyder, Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor, Business Editor Scott Miller and Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd.