If you could help your state for free with only five minutes of your time, would you do it?

The 2020 census has been available to fill out since March, yet West Virginia remains one of the states with the very lowest response rates in the country at 47.2%.

Government census data is the basis for many important things to our state, and low response rates could cause major cuts in funding for numerous programs that help communities in West Virginia.

This can affect historically undercounted groups the most, such as immigrants and people of color.

Some low response rates have been linked to fear and distrust of the government, with minority groups worried that their responses could be held against them or used to deport undocumented residents — especially after the very public legal battle over including a citizenship question on the census, which the Trump administration ultimately lost.

There is no citizenship question on the census, and the information provided cannot be used against you. By federal law, census information is only allowed to be used to generate statistics. It is completely safe and important to respond to the census questionnaire.

Accurate representation of our citizens will be linked to aid from nonprofit organizations, public health funds, emergency and disaster response, education funding and veterans’ assistance. Accurate census data is also important for many studies within the scientific and academic communities.

Additionally, new businesses will use census data in the course of their marketing research to determine where to locate new businesses. The higher our census response rate, the more people are represented by our data and the more likely we are to have incoming business and economic development.

It’s currently predicted that based on census data, West Virginia will lose a seat in the House of Representatives and an electoral college vote. This loss of representation hurts everyone in our state, regardless of demographics, and while it will likely happen regardless, we all must make our voices heard.

If you haven’t responded to your census questionnaire, you can do so by either filling out the form you recieved in the mail and returning it, calling the Census Bureau at 844-330-2020, or visiting the census website at www.my2020census.gov.

For households who have not responded to the census questionnaire using one of these methods, census takers will begin traveling for in-person interviews on May 27 to get as much accurate data as possible.

It has never been easier or faster to take a measurable step to improve our state. We hope each person reading this who hasn’t responded to the census takes time today to do so.

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