April 1 was Census Day – the date used by the U.S. Census Bureau as the single day that mattered in an attempt to record who we are and where we live. Answers to the 2020 Census, which is currently underway, are based on who was living in our household on that date.

Census questionnaires were mailed to each household in the country in mid-March and responses are required by law. Reminders on powder blue postcards have already hit mailboxes.

The Census Bureau encourages responses as soon as possible, but will allow us to respond any time before August 14 – that includes a two-week extension due to coronavirus.

Newberry resident Michelle Teske has already completed her survey, opting to fill it out online.

“I did think it was easy and pretty self explanatory. Very easy to follow,” she said. “I think it is vital to our community to answer the questions and help any way we can.”

Teske is in the minority for Luce County – more than 70% of households have not yet responded.

Luce County residents have returned a mere 28.4% of their questionnaires. Nearby counties are similar: Schoolcraft is at 37%; Mackinac has returned 21.7%, and Chippewa is at 35%.

Michigan’s current response rate is 54.5%, ahead of the national average of 47.9%. Michigan’s rate is largely propped up by a significant number of responses in Livingston and Macomb counties near Detroit, which have returned 65.7% and 64.3%, respectively.

Technology is playing a big role in the Census response. In Luce County, 20.7% of responses came via the internet. Answering the survey online is available at 2020Census.gov and should take only 10 minutes.

In lower Michigan, where internet access is more readily available, responses are almost entirely online – all but 2.3% of Livingston County’s responses were completed online.

Information gathered in the Census will be used for major decisions in the next 10 years, including how many congressional representatives each state has, and how much federal funding is sent to our communities to support programs like Medicaid, Head Start, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

If answers are as anticipated, Michigan could lose up to five congressional representatives. Booming states like California and Florida may grow by 15 representatives each, and Texas could jump by 13.

The revised representative counts will remain in place for the next 10 years.

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting the survey. Americans are given an extra two weeks to return their surveys, and Census workers who are currently going door to door in areas like rural Alaska are interviewing households from outside their homes and standing at least six feet apart.

Results will be given to President Donald Trump on time by December 31, and redistricting counts will be delivered to the states by April 1, 2021.