How and why to fill out the census before the end of the month

Filling out the census means more than just getting counted in the population. It means funding for dozens of programs that impact people directly.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The deadline for filling out the 2020 census is now less than a month away, at Sept. 30. It directly impacts people and program funding here in Tennessee.

In 2017, Tennessee was allocated $17,298,449,635 in federal funds for 55 programs that impact millions of people.

That amount was determined by the census and how many people of different ages, incomes and other demographics filled it out.

School breakfast and lunch programs, WIC aid for new moms and babies, new and updated roads our local Mobile Meals program all benefit from people filling out their census forms.

“31 percent of our budget comes from federal dollars,” said Judith Pelot, Director of Nutrition Services at CAC. “It’s important that we count all those seniors because they kind of divide up the pie, divide up the money based on how many seniors we have in our community.”

She said the rest of their funding comes from donations, grants and community funding.

If fewer people fill out the census than in 2010, they could see less federal funding.

That’s the case for all the programs that get funding from census responses.

For example, 1,200 people in Knox County rely on food from Mobile Meals and Pelot said the senior population is growing fast.

“They’re living at home, they’re living longer and they’re needing that extra assistance so we want to make sure all our seniors get counted as well as everyone in our community to help us make sure that those federal dollars are designated properly,” said Pelot.

Other Knoxville programs that depend on federal funding include Head Start utility assistance through CAC, as well as the city’s housing and neighborhood development programs.

Citizens can fill out your census online, fill out and mail in a paper form if they were sent one, or call one of the many offices across the state that can help fill it out over the phone.

A census worker may come to your door if they don’t have a record of your response and you can fill one out with them.

Just answering a few questions for the census will shape our homes for the next decade.

If you need to call the census for assistance, call 844-330-2020.

Assistance by phone in 14 languages can be found here.

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