An estimated one million preschoolers, youngsters from birth through age 4, weren't counted in the 2010 U.S. Census, costing local communities across the country a combined $675 billion per year in federal funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other initiatives.

That's huge when one considers the census occurs every 10 years, said Crystal Boyett, a census partnership specialist who is assisting counties in the Pennyrile region with next year's count.

"We've attributed it to multiple reasons," said Boyett, noting youngsters may split their time with Mom and Dad or live with a different relative altogether, a grandparent perhaps.

Because it's not a traditional household, the relative may forget to list the child on the form.

The 2020 U.S. Census begins in earnest next March, when households will receive an invitation to complete their form either by telephone, using a paper form or online.

It will be the first time U.S. citizens are offered an online option for completing the census, and one local official said census workers are thinking of ways to ensure everyone is counted.

"The census impacts everything," said Jason Vincent, executive director of the Pennyrile Area Development District, of the funding U.S. communities receive based on census figures.

He cited one study conducted by a university whose findings indicate if an individual isn't counted, that's $1,000 that person's community will not receive in a year's time.

"That's $10,000 that a community misses out on if they are not counted," Vincent said, acknowledging the 10-year span between each decennial count of U.S. citizens.

The director noted a recent meeting of Christian County's complete count committee involved brainstorming those groups that have traditionally not been counted in the census and discussing ways to make sure those people aren't missed in the 2020 census count.

Committees are tasked with spearheading awareness campaigns in individual communities, and Vincent said all the counties in the Pennyrile region have established committees.

He said Christian County's committee is working on ways to make people aware of the importance of the census; census officials will be contacting people in their neighborhoods, utilizing social media and speaking with civic groups like Rotary and Kiwanis to spread the word.

There also will be census representatives at next month's Summer Salute Festival in the local community.

Amid security concerns in today's world, people are told not to answer their doors.

They're cautioned not to "fill out stuff," Vincent said.

But the census is asking them to do just that, he noted, and the complete count committees are trying to make people aware of what is happening with the census and what to look for when they're approached by census workers and/or receive information in the mail.

There will be several activities between March and May related to the census, and people are encouraged to complete their census forms during that time. Households that don't complete the form will be sent a census through the U.S. mail, Vincent said. Boyett said the U.S. census is quick; it takes 10 minutes to complete and has only 10 questions right now.

It's confidential. Only statistical data is released, and the U.S. Census Bureau doesn't share information with other agencies, Boyett said. She said the forms can be completed anywhere that is convenient for the resident, using a Smartphone or tablet, for example.

Boyett even suggested filling it out while waiting to be called into the doctor's office.

"Responding is easier than ever," she observed. "It's also mandated in the Constitution that we complete the census every 10 years. We need to know how many people are in every single community so we can plan for the community."

The decennial count helps communities plan for events, i.e., impacting where they build their schools, for example, or how they respond to emergencies, and it determines the number of seats in Congress. It also determines the success of funding for initiatives like the National School Lunch Program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps.

Boyett said census officials are partnering with schools, head start programs, even hospital wards, to remind parents they need to count youths from birth through age 4 on the census.

Individuals need to be counted where they sleep the most, six or more months out of the year, according to Boyett, or where they are sleeping on April 1, 2020 -- Census Day.

That day is when U.S. citizens are encouraged to complete their forms.

Boyett said the invitations will be sent to street addresses in March, and she noted census officials want people to understand in the months ahead why the census is important.

"We're reaching out to all of our communities," said Boyett, who is assisting with census efforts in the Pennyrile region's nine counties, including Christian, Trigg and Todd counties.

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