Low Census Response Rates in Jefferson County Could Impact Funding

BROOKVILLE, Pa. (EYT) – The numbers for Jefferson County’s response to the 2020 Census are about average for the state, but the county is trailing Clearfield County and certain communities are well below the state average.

For example, at a recent Brockway Borough Council meeting, Councilman Lu Inzana said that Brockway has the lowest return in Jefferson County.

“I believe Brockway is at 28 percent and the county is at 45 percent,” Inzana said.

Jefferson County Commissioner John “Jack” Matson said that the county needs to increase its participation.

“I think some people think that the census is government tracking,” Matson said. “It’s not. It has a lot to do with funding for our county. Each person counted could be $12,000 over the next ten years! It’s very important.”

Matson said that concerned citizens should look at the census website to see how the information will be used.

“There are some questions that have to be answered, but many are optional,” he said. “The census people will keep asking you to complete the census, but as soon as you fill it out, they go away!”

Matson wondered if the current pandemic and divided government is why people are not completing the census information.

“COVID-19 has divided us,” he said, “and our country is more divided than we should be. I think people just don’t trust the government right now.”

The consequences for funding could impact each community based on the numbers. Matson said he knew of a time when Brookville was just 60 people shy of having 4,000 people. That number was the cutoff for getting certain money from the state.

“If it goes from coming directly from the state to coming from the county, that can be a lot of money,” he said.

According to fliers sent out by Census 2020, everyone needs to fill out a census form, which only takes a few minutes and can be done online or on paper. The fliers say that the information in changing demographics can be used to draw congressional districts as well as state legislative districts. It can impact the number of seats a state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives. It also impacts federal funding.

The flier adds that the information cannot be used against citizens for any reason.

From the flyer: “Residents do not need to be concerned about safety and security, as Census answers can’t be used against you, and data security is managed by security experts operating at the highest levels. Under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, the U.S. Census Bureau cannot release any information that identifies individuals, and anyone who breaks this law faces a fine of up to $250,000 and/or up to five years in prison.”

Jefferson County has a link to the Census and other information on its website. The Census can also be found at pa.gov/census.

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