Written by Elise Stefanik in The Sun Community News on June 14, 2020

This spring has proven to be a very unprecedented and challenging time for our communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us in many ways, but it has also highlighted the North Country’s exceptional public health officials, healthcare workers, first responders, law enforcement personnel, and community leaders as our community has risen to meet the unique needs of our region. Additionally, the tragic murder of George Floyd has highlighted the need to continue to unify in working towards a more peaceful and just society. As we grieve with the Floyd family, the North Country has been a positive example of strong relationships with our local law enforcement and our community.

Amidst this crisis, it is critical to highlight the role that the 2020 Census plays in funding our hospitals, emergency services including police forces and fire stations, schools, roads, and more. Every decade, the Census helps to determine how taxpayer dollars are distributed back into the community from our government agencies. I am writing to personally urge all residents of our community to take a few minutes to fill out the Census.

The 2020 Census will distribute billions of dollars in federal resources to our businesses, community leaders, and elected officials to help them make informed decisions on how to serve you. The results will also inform how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. These programs are absolutely essential to our region, especially in our more rural areas.

Now more than ever, it is critical that the North Country is accurately counted, so that our region can receive the highest possible amounts of federal funding. As we recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 crisis, we must consider the substantial needs our region is counting on. An accurate and complete census count is the first step in making sure the North Country receives funding to make critical decisions over not only this next year but over the next decade as well.

Given the current public health crisis, it is recommended that citizens respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail. Responding now will further minimize the need for the Census Bureau to send census takers out into communities to follow up with households individually.

In mid-April, the Census Bureau began mailing the paper questionnaire to homes that have not yet responded online or by phone. If you receive mail through a P.O. Box, the Census Bureau will not be able to send you a response form, as they require your physical address to count you at the place where you live. Only a complete street address will help the Bureau accurately count you in the right place. If you cannot receive mail at your home, a Census Bureau worker may deliver a questionnaire, leave information about responding, or interview you.

You can complete the census online at my2020census.gov. You can also call the Census Bureau at 844-330-2020. The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to keep all of your reported information confidential.

If you have any questions or need more information about how to complete your 2020 Census, please visit my website at Stefanik.house.gov, or reach out to anyone of my offices. I will continue to advocate for the North Country to receive critical funding and resources at the federal level, and I encourage all of my constituents to complete the 2020 Census in order to ensure all are accurately counted.

You can read the full op-ed at https://suncommunitynews.com/