PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – The Census affects local food assistance, roads, healthcare and education funding. As Florida continues to grow, Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch says billions of dollars in funding are at stake, so having an accurate Census count is at the top of the priority list.

2020Census.gov suggests considering of your morning commute: Census results influence highway planning and construction, as well as grants for buses, subways, and other public transit systems.

Or think of your local schools: Census results help determine how money is allocated for the Head Start program and for grants that support teachers and special education.

The list goes on, including programs to support rural areas, to restore wildlife, to prevent child abuse, to prepare for wildfires, and to provide housing assistance for older adults.

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“In order for the government to know we’re here, we have to respond to this census,” said Welch. “It’s almost as important as voting. You know, if the government doesn’t know that we’re there, then we don’t get representation [in Congress].”

Commissioner Welch chairs the Countywide Census Committee. He says the urgency for all residents to respond quickly to the 2020 Census recently increased after the bureau announced it will end the nationwide count a month earlier than expected, on September 30, 2020. As of Tuesday, just over 63% of Pinellas County residents responded.

“Unless we want the funding that would normally come to St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Tampa Bay to go to Sacramento… it’s about fair distribution of resources from the Federal Government,” said Welch.

But it’s doesn’t stop at Congress; programs throughout Florida get about $44 billion in federal funding based on data collected. But because we’re a growing state and our population is continuously rising, Welch says we need that accurate count.

“And when you see things like that CARES Act which is sent for Pinellas County, $170 million to help our businesses, our families get through this COVID crisis, that’s driven by our representation in congress so it does matter,” said Welch.

He says, given COVID-19 is keeping most of us at home right now, we’ve been able to turn to technology to get the job done.

“Gives folks another reason to respond online,” said Welch. “We’re doing better than every county in the immediate bay area except for Pasco, and so Pinellas County needs to get on board, we want to be the best in the bay area and get that response rate up.”

According to 2020Census.gov, as of August 11, 2020, only 60.3% of Florida has self-responded. Here’s how Tampa Bay Area counties stack up in the same time frame:

Citrus: 65.8%

Hernando: 68.5%

Sumter: 69.8%

Pasco: 63.8%

Polk: 58.9%

Hillsborough: 61.9%

Pinellas: 63.7%

Hardee: 43.3%

DeSoto: 45.4%

Manatee: 56.9%

Sarasota: 63%

Highlands: 57.1%

To monitor reporting in your area, visit the 2020Census.gov website where you can also complete your 2020 Census if you haven’t already done so.

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