ASHLAND -- If Ashland County isn't counted accurately in the upcoming census, Ohio could lose congressional seats, social services could lose funding and the potential impact couldn't be reversed for another decade.
For these reasons, the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce, local nonprofits and other local agencies have teamed in an effort to "Make Ashland Count" in the 2020 census.
The Chamber of Commerce hosted a meeting of more than a dozen leaders on Thursday, Jan. 31 with The United States Census Bureau's partnership specialist, Ida Szulewski.
"I loved it. I loved having so many people in the room, and I thought the energy and positivity was high. There was good excitement about census advocacy," said Jacob Coffy, the Chamber's strategic partnership and member recruitment coordinator. "And I use the term census advocacy because yes, the census does need advocates. It's not just something the federal government that comes in and does. We have to get behind it; it has a local impact."
The group is called a Census Complete Count Committee and will aim to connect with typically undercounted portions of Ashland County in the coming months.
Invitations to respond to the census are expected to begin arriving by mail on March 12. For the first time, it will be available online.
Census Day is April 1 and should be the date used by parents to record the whereabouts of any children who are in shared custody. Wherever the child is on April 1 is where they should be counted.
The same applies to students. If they reside in Ashland, they should be counted in Ashland, not with their parents.
"Only way for parents to include children not living at home (on April 1, is if they are children at a boarding school," Szulewski said.
The committee launched earlier this year with six members: Coffy of the Chamber, Emily McKinley of the Chamber, Amy Banaga of Ashland County Family and Children First Council, Jerry Strausbaugh of Appleseed Community Mental Health, Peter Stefaniuk of Ashland County Job and Family Services and Rebecca Hunsicker of Safe Haven.
"It's important because of the funding aspect, because of how the funding is decided according to the census," Banaga said. "It determines how much funding we get for the area, and makes sure we get what we need."
As the launch of the 2020 census approaches, community members are encouraged to stay tuned, as more information and assistance will be available to help fill out the census.
Anyone interested in joining the Census Complete Count Committee and its effort to "Make Ashland Count" should contact the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce.