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Hey, Southeast Colorado Springs!

Want to have a say in how your roads are funded? What about your schools? Your public health clinics or first responders?

Then here’s the thing: You need to be counted.

This month, you will probably receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 U.S. Census … if you haven’t already. This part of town has historically been under-represented in the decennial count, which is a real shame, given how much hinges on the tally.

Like what, you ask? Let’s take a look.

• Colorado’s fair share of roughly $880 billion each year in federal funds. The U.S. government divvies up that total into education, health care, infrastructure and other programs based on each state’s population. Since Colorado’s residency rates have exploded in the past 10 years, we could be in line for about $2,300 more per person if every resident is accurately counted, Colorado Springs city officials have said.

OK, great; but what does that mean for you?

Consider this: Here in El Paso County, just shy of $8 million per month in food assistance was distributed to an average of 65,214 residents as of August 2019. A good chunk of the cost was covered by federal dollars, which, again, are distributed based on population.

More residents mean the city, county and state collect more dollars that, in turn, benefit more people.

• Our legislative representation. The 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are assigned to states based on — you guessed it — population.

In 2010, the last time the official count happened, Colorado as a state tallied just over 5 million residents. Last year’s estimates put us at more than 5.7 million, according to Census Bureau data. That’s a 14 percent jump in our population in just 10 years!

And for residents who have called El Paso County home for the past decade, it should come as no surprise that the county grew at a similar rate. The 2010 census found we had 622,263 people living in the county; the 2018 estimates, the most recent available, put that number at 713,856 … a 14.7 percent increase.

So how does that impact our representation in Washington? The state currently sends seven representatives to D.C. to work on our collective behalf. City officials believe that if every resident is accurately counted, Colorado Springs’ population could tip the half-million mark and earn the state an eighth representative.

That could be your new Congressperson — your voice advocating for your family, your home, your community in Washington. But if the scales don’t tip, it probably won’t happen.

• Plus, there’s kind of a whole legal obligation to participate.

The simple fact is that you count, in so very many ways. Your family members count. Your roommates count. And it’s important that every single one of us stands up and participates in the roll call.

Look, there’s been some reluctance to participate, and frankly that’s understandable. After all, it’s not been a secret that the Trump administration wanted to not just ask basic demographic information, but whether or not every resident of a home was a U.S. citizen. That got squashed by none less than the U.S. Supreme Court, so no, you won’t be asked about your citizenship status.

What you will be asked is basic information related to your age, gender, number of residents in the home, home ownership status, race, whether you are of Hispanic origin and relationship of the people in your home. All answers are kept confidential.

So when that census invitation letter comes, please take the time to read it, process it and, come April 1, do your civic duty and participate. You can count me in.

** Other  columns by Regan Foster: Change is coming, what role will you play? **

** My kind of crazy **

** Giving thanks, one year in **

** The clock is ticking **

** What a difference a year makes **

** School dazed **

** Taking stock of how you shape us **

** By working together, we all grow **

** Inspiration from the past while looking to the future **

Contact Southeast Express Editor and General Manager Regan Foster at (719) 578-2802 or regan.foster@southeastexpress.org.

Founding Editor and General Manager Regan Foster holds dual bachelor's degrees in journalism and Spanish, with a minor in Latin American studies, from the University of Iowa and a master's degree in journalism with specialization in political reporting and media management from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Over the course of nearly two decades, she has worked and lived in Alaska, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Colorado. Before being tasked with launching the Southeast Express, Foster was the youngest person and first woman ever hired to serve as The Pueblo Chieftain's editorial page editor, where she also worked as both the entertainment editor and the Life editor.

Editor

Founding Editor and General Manager Regan Foster holds dual bachelor's degrees in journalism and Spanish and a master's degree in journalism with specialization in political reporting and media management.