TOMS RIVER – Emphasizing the importance of all Ocean County residents being counted in the upcoming 2020 Census, Ocean County officials are continuing their preparation for a successful outcome.
Census 2020 will be taking place April 1 which is considered National Census Day. The Census has taken place every 10 years since 1790, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution - an effort to count every person living in the United States.
"More than just answering some questions on a form, the Census count has a significant impact on federal and state funding allocated to New Jersey and its counties, municipalities and communities," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who is leading the County's 2020 Census Count efforts. "Census data directly affects how more than $22.7 billion per year is allocated in our state.
"This equates to about $2,548 per New Jersey resident for important infrastructure improvements, senior services, public health, education, transportation, and block grant programs, such as Superstorm Sandy Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Grants. These are all essential programs that without the proper levels of funding would be reduced or potentially eliminated having a devastating effect on our citizens that rely on them," Vicari said. "Better participation in the Census means more funding."
Ocean County is poised to award mini-grants to four of its municipalities and the Ocean County Library specifically for outreach and assistance to the historically hard-to-count populations.
"We are redistributing a $116,411 grant we received from the New Jersey Department of State's 2020 Complete Count Commission in order to assist with outreach," Vicari said. "We want to do all we can to have everyone be counted. This will help extensively in those efforts."
Following a thorough review of the 2010 Census results, Ocean County identified census tracts that have the greatest percentage of hard to count populations and low response rates. Those areas were determined to be in Lakewood, Toms River, Brick and Jackson townships.
The grant amounts will be Lakewood, $50,150, Brick Township, $14,450, Jackson Township, $10,200 and Toms River Township, $10,200.
The mini grant amounts are directly based on the percentage of greater hard to count populations and low response rates.
The Ocean County Library system also will receive a grant in the amount of $21,100 for outreach and assistance at its branches located in areas where there are hard to count populations.
"There are 21 branches of the Ocean County Library throughout Ocean County," Vicari said. "Because of its accessibility and its convenient hours, the libraries are perfect locations to provide outreach and assistance for the Census."
Vicari noted the library has already begun hosting Census programs presented by the U.S. Census Bureau and will be running them at various locations from now through the Census period.
"Discussions include methods to achieve accurate population counts, how Census information is used, and the value of participation," Vicari said. "Workshops also will offer instruction to everyone interested in working within the US Census Bureau during Census 2020."
Additional discussions and workshops may be scheduled. Information is available by calling the main branch in Toms River at 732-349-6200 or by visiting the library website at http://www.theoceancountylibrary.org/events.
Vicari noted that in addition to funding, the results of the Census also determines how Congress is apportioned.
"These are key factors in us obtaining our fair share of funding for vital programs and services," he said.
Ocean County established a Census Complete Count Committee in 2019 bringing together partners with local knowledge and resources to raise awareness and educate residents on the importance of the Census and to promote the census through locally based, targeted outreach efforts.
"Getting the word out is imperative to a successful Census count in 2020," Vicari said. "The Complete Count Committee is made up of representatives from Ocean County Government Departments, municipalities, non-profits and service organizations, community leaders, faith-based groups, schools, businesses, media outlets and others. "
Vicari noted that Census 2020 will be historically different.
"This year, for the first time, about 80 percent of households will receive a postcard instead of a paper questionnaire, directing them to complete the form online," Vicari said. "Because of this change, the work of the Ocean County Complete Count Committee and municipal complete count committees is even more important.
"The outreach, assistance and information we provide to our residents will be key to them following through and completing the census questionnaire," he said.
He also emphasized that Census data and the collection of the data is strictly confidential and protected by Federal Law under Title 13.
"We want to encourage all of our residents to complete the census questionnaire as it cannot be used for any purpose or shared with any other institutions or agencies," Vicari said.
Ocean County also is unique because of the number of snowbirds – people that spend winters elsewhere – that live in the County.
"The guiding principal for the Census is "usual residence" which is defined as the place where the person lives and sleeps most of the time," Vicari said. "So with more than 170,000 seniors living in Ocean County, it is important our snowbirds who live in Ocean County most of the year are counted."