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As calendars shift to a new year, local organizations are encouraging residents to keep an eye on their mailboxes for documents related to the 2020 United States Census.

Conducted every ten years in the U.S. since 1790, this year’s population count will be the first ever to include options for responding both by phone and online — in addition to traditional paper forms. For League of Women Voters President Teresa Briggs, the new census may also mark an important time for the future development of the Emporia community.

“The numbers derived from the census help drive some of the federal funding we may get,” Briggs said. “The government, businesses and other organizations use census data for grants, transportation planning, emergency preparedness, education funding, health tracking — it also helps get us lined up for the redistricting that will take place in 2022. It helps address our representation with our legislators as well. Businesses consider population trends when choosing places to locate, too. So really, there are a lot of positive aspects to it that we can focus on.”

The League of Women Voters invites those curious about the importance of the census — as well as it’s history, the logistics behind the nationwide count and ways to properly submit forms — to attend a free workshop on the topic set for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Emporia Public Library. Steve Hale, a senior partnership specialist for the 2020 Kansas Census, will be the guest speaker.

“This gentleman has worked closely with the census committee, and has really been good about making himself available for anyone wanting information on it ...” Briggs said. “The main focus is to educate people on the purpose of the census. We want to reassure people about what the census actually does versus maybe what they have heard.”

Members of Hispanics of Today and Tomorrow and the Emporia Migrant Education Program will also be hosting a workshop seeking to stop the spread of misinformation. The free sessions — set for 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Clint Bowyer Building — are open to anyone, but will be specially tailored to local hispanics, non-English speakers and other minority groups.

“Sometimes, members of our hispanic community may be afraid to fill these types of documents out, so it’s something we want to help inform them about,” said HOTT President Sally Sanchez. “We want everyone to be counted because it means money for the city, for the schools and even their neighborhoods. We really just want to let the hispanic community know that this is something that is safe and that there’s not anybody coming after them or anything like that. It’s better for the community as a whole if everyone fills out the forms accurately.”

Local residents can expect census documents to be delivered in the coming weeks, with the majority appearing before April 1. Those looking for more information in the meantime can visit kansascommerce.gov/about-us/census/.

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