Clock is ticking on Census; make sure you're counted

Sen. Bill Coleman

The clock is ticking, friends. We have until the end of the month to ensure as much of our federal tax dollars stay in our local communities, counties and state as possible by participating in the U.S. Census.

The stakes are high. For every 588 Oklahomans not counted, the state will lose an estimated $1 million annually for the next 10 years. Your household’s participation matters. As of last Saturday, Sept. 19, the Census Bureau estimated about 6.7 percent of this state's households remained unaccounted for.

Census population counts are used to distribute more than $689 billion to hundreds of government programs for schools, senior citizens, veterans, the disabled, roads, the unemployed and many others. We all benefit when we participate. Those are tax dollars we paid in, and we’re just bringing them back to our state.

When people aren’t counted, our federal tax dollars are given to other states. Those programs in Oklahoma are either underfunded, or done away with; or as taxpayers, we have to pay for them in other ways, essentially paying twice for government services – all because some don’t participate. 

Our state and congressional district lines will be redrawn to reflect shifts in population since the 2010 Census. Senate District 10 may look very different as people have moved into or out of the area.

Please share about the importance of the U.S. Census to our state and communities with everyone you know, including on social media. That’s often the easiest way to get information to a larger audience. We must get our Census numbers up before Sept. 30. 

Our state would have received millions more in COVID-19 CARES Act funding had more Oklahomans participated in the 2010 Census, which was used to determine relief funding for states. We’re one of the top 10 states for COVID-19 outbreaks, yet we were one of the lowest participating states in the 2010 Census, so our federal relief money has not mirrored our need for assistance.

If you’re a business owner, please educate your staff on the importance of the Census.  We must all work together to make sure all Oklahomans know how important their participation is for the state.

In just a few minutes, you can be counted at www.2020Census.gov or by calling toll-free 1-844-330-2020.

Interim studies have been moving along. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise or knowledge on an issue being reviewed, please contact the legislator who requested the study or the chairman of the committee it has been assigned to. 

The first study held in the Senate looked at the logistics of providing a state-managed retirement plan for private sector employees who don’t have one available to them at their job. The committee found that about half of Oklahoma’s workforce don’t have a retirement benefit. This leads to higher spending for Medicaid and other government programs as those individuals get older.

Those who requested the study want to set up the Sooner Choice Trust, allowing participants to put up to 3% of their pay into state-managed investment accounts, which is what state employees already do. The legislators believe this would help protect Oklahomans when they get to retirement age as well as businesses, especially smaller ones that can’t afford such a benefit, without using any tax dollars. It also has the potential to save the state money.

I’m sure you’ve already heard, but Oklahoma was approved for the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) by FEMA. This will provide $300 each week on top of the regular state unemployment benefit. This replaces the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) of $600 weekly that expired at the end of July.

Please contact my office if you need any help with unemployment issues. You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.