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Thomas: Washington Parish needs to respond to census

This article is written by Washington Parish President Richard “Ned” Thomas.

As your parish president, I would like to take a moment to discuss the 2020 Census and how important it is for the citizens of Washington Parish. I have received information from census numbers being reported, and Washington Parish ranks 59th among parishes from those who have completed the 2020 Census forms mailed in April. (There are 64 parishes in Louisiana).

Washington Parish has 16 Large Federal Assistance Programs that distribute funds based on the statistics derived from the census. The census impacts fund for Medicaid, SNAP, Medicare Part B, Highway Planning and Construction, Section 8 Housing Vouchers and Section 8 Housing Assistance Payments Program, Title I Grants, National School Lunch Program, Special Education Grants, Head Start/Early Head Start, State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), Foster Care (Title IV-E) Health Center Programs (Community Migrant, Homeless, Public Housing), Low Income Home Energy Assistance and Child Care and Development Fund-Entitlement.

The realization of this all is those 16 Federally Funded Assistance Programs affect all of those residing in Washington Parish. The schools in Washington Parish provide the free lunch program, early childhood development through Head Start, and Special Education Grants that help challenged students in our community. If our census numbers stay where they are and do not increase, none of these federally funded programs would be available to the students of Washington Parish — they could be reduced or require out-of-pocket expense for the parents. There is the same possibility for Housing, Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, Low Income Home Energy Assistance or S-CHIP. Someone you know would see a reduction in services if we do not get our Census 2020 response numbers up.

The bottom line is our numbers need to improve. Our parish could suffer from losing representation in Washington, D.C., and our senior citizens and children could lose programs that are vital to each and every one of them. There are many different options to be counted. You can fill out the form mailed to you and return it, you can use the website at 2020census.gov, or you can fill it out with the help of a 2020 Census representative who visits you at your home.

I ask that each of you that has not filled out the form, please find time to do so. It is important to be counted.