Westmoreland County officials stress how much 2020 census counts
More than a year ahead of the 2020 census, Westmoreland County officials are banding together to ensure every resident gets counted.
The once-a-decade population count determines the amount of public funds local municipalities receive, the number of representatives each state has in Congress and what infrastructure projects get completed.
Based on those Census counts, Westmoreland County receives about $3.3 million annually through federally funded Community Development Block Grants. The funds are used for water, sewer and road infrastructure as well as sidewalks and parks, said Phil Koch, executive director of The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, a local grant-making organization.
But with a declining and aging population, the 2020 Census is important to continue to grow Westmoreland County, making it attractive to young professionals and families.
“There’s a danger that some folks may not be counted, and that is just not OK,” Koch said. “And we looked at, who are those people that may be at risk of not being counted? It’s vulnerable populations and vulnerable communities.”
According to Chad Amond, president and CEO of the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce, about one-third of the county’s population is at or near retirement age. About 22 percent of the roughly 352,600 county residents are 65 years or older, 2017 census estimates show.
Now, a group of local nonprofit, philanthropic, government and business leaders have formed a complete count committee aimed at ensuring the majority of county residents participate in the 2020 census, including hard-to-count areas such as rural populations, college students, people facing poverty and children 5 and younger.
To start, the group will create a volunteer steering committee that will encourage people to apply for census worker jobs. From there, they will create various subcommittees and create and implement action plans.
Subcommittees currently under review include civic engagement in libraries, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and community centers; education including young children and college students; workforce, with a focus on manufacturing and entrepreneurs; and government agencies such as municipal managers, borough and township officials and trade associations.
“So much of the federal funding that we get at county government is tied to our population,” Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas said. “This is funding for quality-of-life improvements like parks, water and sewer projects, handicapped accessibility. All the things that would grow our community is directly tied to our census numbers.”
The census count also could help local manufacturing jobs, which account for about 13 percent of area jobs, Amond said.
“These jobs depend on a well-developed infrastructure and skilled workforce,” Amond said. “We see significant job opportunities in skilled trade and manufacturing immediately and in the future of Westmoreland County, and an accurate census count will help us define how great the need will be for qualified workforce and skilled training.”
The census will bring about 3,000 jobs to the area, ranging between $15 and $31.50 per hour for varying positions. Applications are being accepted online at 2020census.gov/jobs. More information is available by calling 855-5627-2020.
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .