State, Local Government Figures Encourage Census Participation In Discussion Forum

It’s 2020, folks, and you know what that means: It’s time for another United States Census.

The census, which has been conducted every 10 years since 1790, is an official count of each and every citizen of the United States. The numbers retrieved by each census are used to determine how many seats each respective state receives in the United States House of Representatives, the number each local representatives serve in Pennsylvania’s House of Representative and Senate, and how much federal and state funding is distributed across the country.

Because participation is extremely important for every American, state officials and local supporters gathered in the HUB’s Freeman Auditorium Wednesday night to convey that exact message to students.

Penn State Executive Vice President and Provost Nick Jones kicked off the event by welcoming everyone to University Park and showing their support for the census effort.

“The United States Census has been the cornerstone of our democracy since the first national count in 1790,” Jones said. “Penn State has a big role to play in the 2020 census. Not just here, but in communities all across Pennsylvania…This project is a big one, and we are ready for it.”

Many programs around Centre County and State College have worked to lend a hand in making the census a reality in Happy Valley. The Centre County Complete Count Committee, for example, is leading coordinated efforts all over the region to sponsor events to help people get counted. Another program will provide Meals On Wheels employees with census contact cards to hand out when traveling around this spring.

Next, interim State College Mayor Ron Filippelli briefly spoke and gave his support to Penn State’s census efforts. He noted that it’s critical students register in State College, as their population accounts for a large part of the total local population. In doing so, the borough could see an increase in state and federal funding.

The event then moved to a discussion panel featuring four state and local politicians, the most notable being Pennsylvania Second Lady Gisele Fetterman. The panel was moderated by Michael Gerber of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community & Economic Development, who prompted each guest with questions regarding the importance of taking part in the census.

Fetterman is currently traveling to each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties to campaign for increased census participation. She’s currently focusing her efforts on reaching “hard-to-count” places to do just that.

Fetterman, a Brazilian immigrant who came to the United States as a child, lived undocumented for nearly a decade. Although she did not understand it then, she stressed Wednesday that census participation cannot be used against individuals and will only help states receive more funding and advocate for change reflective of their populations.

“Back [when I was a child], I was afraid of every knock at the door,” Fetterman said. “I thought that would take away my family and send us back to a country we had fled. But I understand now the importance of [the census] and how it’s completely protected.”

She also added that being a registered voter is not a requirement for participating in the census.

One important aspect of census participation the panel honed in on was that taking part in it has a direct effect on federal and state funding. Guest speakers noted that whatever you’re passionate about, dollars from census participation can be used to support it.

Registering for the census can also serve as a way of “giving back” to local communities, especially here at Penn State. This is especially true for graduating seniors, according to the panelists, as participating will help increase funding for the university and leave Penn State a better place than when you first arrived.

If you’re a local homeowner, you’ll likely begin receiving pamphlets and registration papers for the census in the mail in mid-March. Once that invitation arrives, you can respond through the mail and, for the first time ever, over the phone and online.

The 2020 U.S. Census will officially open on April 1, while the submission window will close on July 31.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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