Be sure to look closely at your mail before tossing it out, because households nationwide are set to receive 2020 Census questionnaires beginning next month.

A national survey conducted at the start of each decade, beginning in 1790, the Census determines how $675 billion in annual federal funding is allocated and helps draw state congressional lines.

“This is going to impact federal funds that are spent for schools, hospitals, roads, community improvement and much more,” U.S. Census spokesperson Coralys Ruiz said.

Information gathered from the 2020 U.S. Census will be used to determine the number of seats Texas has in the U.S. House of representatives for the next 10 years. Currently, Texas has 36 delegations.

Assistance through federal aid programs such as free and reduced lunch for students, Medicare and Medicaid is determined by census data. A majority of students attending El Campo ISD schools depend on the free and reduced lunch program, with the highest in 2019 being 85 percent of Myatt Elementary students. In 2017, one third of El Campoans relied on Medicaid or Medicare, according to datausa.io.

“These questions are going to impact the next 10 years, so that is why it’s so important that everybody answers that questionnaire,” Ruiz said.

Individual census responses are confidential by federal law and cannot be shared with other government agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Central Intelligence Agency.

“We don’t share any data with anybody,” Ruiz said. “We only publish statistics.”

In the last census, conducted in 2010, El Campo’s participation rate was 77 percent. El Campo was determined to have 11,602 residents in 2010 and 11,622 as of 2018. Wharton County was estimated to have a population of 41,280 in 2010 and a population of 41,619 in 2018.

Once the 2020 census data is released in 2021, congressional seats for U.S. states will be assigned and then Texas officials can redraw legislative districts based on the updated population count. Wharton County falls within Texas’ 27th congressional district.

The federal and state governments aren’t the only entities that utilize census data. Local communities use census data to determine school districts, and private companies often use the data to market to specific demographics of customers, according to Ruiz.

“Everybody benefits from the census data,” Ruiz said.

Every home in the U.S. will receive an invitation to participate by April 1, National Census Day, and will have until July 31 to respond. The survey is available in 13 languages, contains nine questions, and participants can respond over the phone or online. In 2010, census participants were required to mail-in their responses.

“With the new ways of answering the questionnaire, we expect that we are going to get that 100 percent response,” Ruiz said.

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