While a global pandemic grips all Americans, the fact is the U.S. census is underway.

It’s important for each household to complete the census for so many reasons - including that the information directs billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities for schools, roads and other public services; helps communities prepare to meet transportation and emergency readiness needs; and determines the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and political representation at all levels of government.

Plus, completing the census is required by law, and it’s really easy and quick.

“The goal of the census is to count every person living in the United States once, only once and in the right place,” according to census information residents received in the mail.

The U.S. Constitution mandates that this population and housing count occur every 10 years. Census data guide how more than $675 billion in federal funding is distributed to states and communities each year, the information says.

Following are thoughts from area city leaders regarding what each city is doing to help ensure residents complete the census, and why it’s so important.

Pequot Lakes

Pequot Lakes City Administrator Nancy Malecha has a goal for the city to increase its participation percentage from the 2010 census, which was 56%.

In an effort to achieve this goal, the city has been a collaborative partner with the Crow Wing County Complete Count Committee; the city is disseminating resource information on its Facebook page, website and as mailers; and the city reached out to the Pequot Lakes School, chamber, city boards and commissions, and the media for assistance in spreading the word.

“It is our civic duty to participate in the census as the U.S. Constitution mandates that everyone in our country be counted every 10 years,” Malecha said in an email. “The data gathered is used in determining reapportionment of the House of Representatives, potential redistricting for congressional and state legislative districts, and the distribution of billions of dollars for schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs. It’s an easy process in making sure that WE COUNT!”

Nisswa

Nisswa’s goal is to be 100% counted, City Administrator Jenny Max said in an email. Nisswa is sharing census information from Crow Wing County via Twitter @cityofnisswa to help spread a consistent message about the importance of completing the census.

This is the first census where residents can fill out their form online. Census workers have technology that will provide them with up to date information for who has filled out their forms, which should alleviate residents receiving additional mailings and door knocking if their census form is completed right away, Max wrote.

The county committee advises anyone (snowbirds) coming back to Minnesota this spring to wait and fill out their form once they return.

“The information that comes from the census tells us where populations reside and helps to determine how resources are distributed and how our communities should grow,” Max said. “Over $800 billion in federal dollars are distributed based on census data. For Minnesota, each person counted equates to $28,000 over a 10-year period. In 2010, Minnesota received the 435th - the very last - representative spot in the U.S. House of Representatives. We are again at risk for losing that spot, which means losing representation for our state. It is so important to have as many voices advocating for us as possible!”

Lake Shore

Lake Shore also has a goal of 100% participation, though that will be difficult because of the number of snowbirds in the city, City Administrator Teri Hastings said via email.

The city will help get the word out via its Facebook page and the spring and fall newsletter. Typically, Cass County shares such information in its newsletter as well.

Hastings anticipates that like in past years, census takers will ask city staff for help with address locations and property owner information.

“The advantage of a small community is that you do know a lot about community members - who is gone for the winter, etc.,” she said.

Hastings also emphasized how population plays a big role in funding, including how much local government aid, grants, etc., cities receive from federal, state and county resources.

“An accurate count is important as that is how congressional districts are set. Minnesota could possibly lose a congressional seat in the House this year,” she said.

In addition, Lake Shore would like to remain the largest city in Cass County, a distinction East Gull Lake would like as well.

Pine River

The census is equally important for communities like Pine River.

“I believe we will be adding a census link on the city of Pine River web page soon,” said clerk Terri Dabill.

Dabill said the census website itself explains the importance of filling out the census.

“I believe it is important to complete the census for there to be accurate, updated numbers,” Dabill said. “The only ramifications that I am aware of are those stated on the census website.”

Crosslake

“The city is part of the County Complete Count Committee,” Crosslake Clerk Char Nelson said. “We all have the same goals for the entire county and that is to get people to participate - preferably online. The committee has provided press releases that are out on our website and Facebook pages and when the library opens again, will be a place for people to use computers to participate. We hope everyone is counted.”

Complete the census

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that completing the questionnaire will take an average of 10 minutes.

Go online to my2020census.gov and use the 12-digit census ID received in the mail to complete the census.