Ahead of the 2020 census count that serves as a basis for the distribution of more than $675,000,000.00 annually in state and federal grants, Ocean County is creating a Complete Count Committee.

This committee is a group of about 30-people from within local government and community organizations with a mission to raise awareness and educate residents about the importance of being counted in the census next year.

Census data also determines where community development block grant funds are allocated.

“This is a very important step in the process,” Ocean County Freeholder Joe Vicari, who is leading the county’s 2020 Census Count efforts, said. “This Committee plays an important role in the Census allowing us to leverage local knowledge and resources to educate communities and promote the Census through locally based, targeted outreach efforts.”

Vicari presented the plan to create the Committee to the Board of Freeholders during its February 27 workshop meeting.

The Board is expected to pass a resolution formally creating the committee at its March 6 meeting.

“A major purpose of the Committee will be to assist the Census Bureau in reaching out to residents that traditionally have had a low response rate in completing a census questionnaire,” Vicari said. “It’s important everyone is counted, every household. Participation is critical, as the results determine Congressional representation and also how federal and state funding is distributed.”

This funding is used for critical infrastructure improvements, senior services, public health, education, transportation and Community Development Block grants.

Vicari said the County has already been participating in preliminary Census activities with the U.S. Bureau of the Census and Ocean County municipalities.

“All of these steps will help insure an accurate population count is taken for the upcoming Census in 2020,” Ocean County Freeholder Director Virginia Haines said. “The work leading up to the actual count is crucial.”

Freeholder Vicari, who also served as census count liaison for the 2010 count, noted that Ocean County also is unique because of the number of snowbirds – people that spend winters elsewhere – that live in the County.

He also believes the County needs the time to raise awareness and educate its residents about the importance of being counted in the census.

“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 it is important our snowbirds who live in Ocean County most of the year are counted.”

Vicari said because it has such a big effect on local funding, the census data collected must be accurate.

In 2010, the census data directly affected how more than $300-billion per year in federal and state funding was allocated to communities.

“That was more than $3 trillion over a 10-year period,” Vicari said. “Those numbers have now more than doubled.”

He added that census data also determines where Community Development Block Grant funds are allocated.

CDBG programs provide assistance to municipalities with infrastructure improvements, handicapped access, transportation, and senior services.

In addition Census counts help with funding for such programs as the First Time Homebuyer Program, HOME Housing Rehabilitation Program and Tenant-based Rental Assistance.

“From forming the Complete Count Committee to planning activities that will help to engage all of our citizens to be counted, we take this preparation very seriously,” Vicari said. “It has a long-term effect on our representation on the federal level and also the funds we receive for key programs that provide benefits to our towns and citizens.”

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