BALDWIN -- The 2020 Census is upon us, and local governmental entities are working to make sure every citizen is counted.

The U.S. Constitution mandates a counting of all persons living within the United States every 10 years. A fair and accurate census, and the collection of useful, objective information about the nation's people, housing and economy is significant in determining appropriation of federal funds and government representation.

Lake County Clerk/Register of Deeds Patti Pacola said the census count determines how much funding the county receives for programs such as Head Start, Section 8 housing, Pell grants for college students, road construction and maintenance, school lunch/breakfast programs, crime victims services, public transportation, congressional representation and more.

"An accurate count assures these program will continue to be funded," she said. "The results of the census will also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts."

Census data is used to apportion seats and draw lines for the U.S. House of Representatives, state legislatures and local commissions and boards, and to target more than $800 billion annually in federal assistance to states and local entities.

It is also used to guide decision-making effecting schools, housing, health-care services, business investment and more.

"A lot of our county funding depends on an accurate count, and this count will stay in place for ten years," she added. "The census will impact funding for roads, schools and public safety, as well as helping businesses decide where to build and expand."

Failure to count all populations fairly and accurately can lead to unequal political representation and unequal access to vital resources. Operations are underway to ensure that the census counts everyone.

Before mailing census materials, the Census Bureau will complete an address canvassing operation to create a comprehensive and accurate list of all housing units. They will rely on satellite imagery, commercial data and government records to update the information.

In mid-March, households will begin receiving invitations to complete the 2020 Census.

Once the invitation is received, you can respond online, by phone or by mail.

To ensure everyone is informed about the Census and it's importance, and to ensure that everyone is counted in the Census, Pacola has formed the Lake County census committee, whose members include, along with Pacola, representatives from local libraries, county and township officials, census officials and community residents.

"The goal of this committee is to educate the public on the importance of the census count to the county as a whole, as well as to the individual townships and communities," Pacola said. "We hope to encourage every resident to participate in the census in order to achieve an accurate population count for the county."

The committee will be disseminating information to the citizens through flyers, posting on social media sites, and presentations at township meetings.

In addition, they will provide computer stations, with personnel to offer assistance, at local libraries for those wanting to complete the census online.

During May and July, Census takers will be visiting households that have not responded to the Census.

"The intent of the Census is to count everyone living in the United States, including people experiencing homelessness or living in transitory locations," Pacola said. "For that reason, there will be Census takers visiting various outdoor locations, shelters, soup kitchens, mobile food pantries, parks, campgrounds and other locations to provide assistance in procuring an accurate count."

Challenges impacting response rates include moving to an all online survey for the first time, increased apathy and distrust, and a general lack of understanding about the census.

"Our target is for the highest response percentage possible so that our community can benefit to the fullest from the state and federal funds available," Pacola said. "We will be doing all we can to educate our community and provide the tools needed for their participation."

By March 31, 2021, the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to states.

This information will be used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.

Village of Baldwin Supervisor Jim Truxton said the biggest effect the census will have on citizens of Baldwin will be the commission redistricting.

It is important to get an accurate count so that the citizens are fairly represented.

Anyone interested in becoming involved in the Lake County census committee may contact Pacola at 231-745-2725 or at ppacola@co.lake.mi.us.

Census questionnaire assistance will be available by phone in multiple languages from January through September at (844) 330-2020 or online at 2020census.gov.