This year, our state will face one of the singular most important events that will set the path for our communities for the next decade. It determines funding for our schools, hospitals, roads, social services and our representation in federal and state government.


It’s also vital for rural revitalization — allowing developers and businesses to use the census to decide where and how to invest, create jobs and build or revitalize homes. The power to influence all of this can be achieved in a mere 10 minutes if you fill out the 2020 census.


The U.S. Constitution requires the government count everyone living in the country regardless of race, ethnicity or citizenship status. The government conducts it every 10 years to determine a population count, not a citizenship count.


Most households can start participating around mid-March, when letters with instructions are mailed to 95% of homes around the country. This year, Census Day is April 1, 2020, and invitations to participate should have arrived by this date. You can answer by mail, phone or online.


One person in each household is required by law to complete the census questionnaire for the entire household, no matter who all lives there — grandparents, children, babies, cousins or friends. It has 12 simple questions that take a short 10 minutes to answer (just enough to play a couple Selena songs): name, gender, age, date of birth, Hispanic origin, race and relationship to the person completing the questionnaire.


The 2020 census will not include a citizenship question. Remember, this is a population count, not a citizen count. Noncitizens should complete the form, submit it and feel confident that you are protected by law. Your census answers are anonymous and protected under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, meaning you are free to answer honestly and safely.


In the past, the census undercounted certain populations, such as rural communities, communities of color, immigrants, young children and low-income people. This is a detriment for southwest Kansas, which has a rapidly growing, vibrant immigrant population that relies heavily on census data for funding.


According to a report by the Child Trends Hispanic Institute and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Education Fund (which I am a member of), in 2010, the national net undercount rate for young Latinos was 7.1%, compared to 4.3% for non-Latinos. More than 400,000 Latino children under age 4 were left uncounted. This means less representation and less money for our community.


The Kansas Department of Commerce calculated that each Kansan is worth roughly $2,082 per year in federal funding. After the 2010 Census, Garden City staff determined the count fell 3,500 people short of the population, which hypothetically meant Garden City had $7,287,000 less to invest in their community.


Due to confusion, distrust and fears over racism and immigration status, it’s estimated 12% of Latinos are already expected to be left out. Mi gente, people often try to count Latinos out, but this is the time to count us in. Beginning on April 1, I encourage you to use your confidential census questionnaire as your opportunity to be seen, heard and counted.


Visit www.2020census.gov to contact your local Complete Count Committee or to apply for a census position. If someone is receiving Medicaid or public assistance benefits, most recipients may retain their benefits and keep their earned wages if they decide to become a census worker. For Medicaid, call 1-800-792-4884, for public assistance benefits, call 1-888-369-4777.


Delía García is the secretary of labor for the state of Kansas.