Is it too early to begin looking forward? I say it’s not. Just one way we can look forward is through participation in the 2020 U.S. Census.

It’s imperative that we not let the COVID-19 pandemic affect our federal funding levels and representation for the next 10 years.

Census data is critical in helping to make decisions that will fuel our community’s future success. Using data collected through the 2020 Census, our community will be better informed to determine tax policies, to forecast transportation needs in Sanford-Lee County, to plan land use, and to make decisions regarding training our workforce, just to name a few. Census data also determines our representation in Congress and is used to redraw boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts.

On March 20 the U.S. Census Bureau began publishing self-response rates for the 2020 Census. The rates represent the number of households that have filled out their census forms on their own (online, by mail, or by phone) as a percentage of all housing units, since the bureau started sending out invitations to households in early March to participate in the census.

I am excited to announce that, according to Shalondra Greenlee, U.S. Census Partnership Specialist, Lee County’s response rate is higher than the state average. While the state average is 44.9%, Lee County’s response rate is 48.9%.

Here are some other key takeaways, according to Carolina Demography: While North Carolina’s response rate is below the national average of 47.9%, our state’s rank continues to slowly rise. As of April 12, North Carolina was ranked 36 out of 50 states and DC — one rank higher than the previous week. For the third week in a row, Orange, Union, Wake and Chatham counties are among the top five highest-responding counties. Davie County was also in this week’s top five. All of these counties are located in either the Triangle, Charlotte, or Triad metropolitan areas and all have response rates of 50% or more.

I continue to encourage you to participate via the online survey which can be found at www.my2020census.gov, by phone or through the paper questionnaires that should be arriving soon. Let us not forget that census data informs the allocation of funding for our public resources (i.e. roads, schools, senior centers) and can make the case for requests for government funding and grants for local projects and initiatives.

In fact, according to U.S. Census officials, “more than $675 billion in federal spending is distributed each year to communities across the country based on census data. Specifically, census data can affect the allocation of federal assistance distributed under the Medical Assistance Program, highway planning and construction, Title 1 grants to local educational agencies and temporary assistance to needy families.”