Westmoreland County leaders launch 2020 Census complete count committee
Greensburg, Pa., Feb. 26, 2019 – A volunteer coalition of nonprofit, philanthropic, government and business leaders announced today that they have formed the Westmoreland Complete Count Committee to ensure that as many county residents as possible participate in the 2020 Census. The group’s first activity will be to recruit a larger volunteer steering committee whose members will serve as ambassadors for the census, creating awareness of its importance and encouraging their networks to participate and even to apply for jobs as census workers.
According to Phil Koch, executive director of The Community Foundation of Westmoreland County, who kicked off the media event today, there are three primary ways a complete census count affects residents: funding from government agencies, demonstrating opportunity for growth and representation in the legislature.
“The census helps the federal government determine how much funding will flow to state and county agencies for programs including health care, preschool subsidies, food assistance and infrastructure,” Koch said. “It’s incredibly important to our mission of serving vulnerable people and the community at large that everyone is counted in the 2020 census.”
Census counts also affect apportionment, or how the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are divided among the 50 states, and the allocation of electoral college votes–. Census undercounts may mean that some communities – particularly rural counties like Westmoreland – have less of a voice in the legislative process.
The announcement was made at ACHIEVA of Westmoreland, a nonprofit whose work is funded in part by $38 million in federal funds.
“Everyone in Westmoreland County benefits from education funding, infrastructure dollars and either is or knows someone who receives assistance from human services programs like those at ACHIEVA and other agencies that we fund through United Way,” said Alyssa Cholodofsky, Westmoreland region director of United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Koch and Cholodofsky—along with Ted Kopas, a Westmoreland County commissioner who led the 2010 census effort, Chad Amond, president and CEO of the Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce, and Tay R. Waltenbaugh, chief executive officer of Westmoreland Community Action—are leading the Westmoreland Complete Count Committee for the 2020 census.
According to July 2017 Census.gov estimates, the most recent available, there are 352,600 people who live in Westmoreland County.
According to Kopas, about $3.3 million annually is allocated to the county through federally funded Community Development Block grants based on census counts.
“These block grants include funding for basic needs such as water, sewer and road infrastructure, to sidewalks and parks that make our communities better places. When populations are undercounted, stress on the local tax base increases because local government and the community have to find the money to build and repair streets and parks,” Kopas said.
Population numbers also drive potential business opportunities in the county. The county’s 2018 comprehensive plan, Reimaging Westmoreland, which was adopted in December of last year, looks at how population and other factors will influence the county’s future. About one-third of the county’s population is at or near retirement, with 22 percent age 65 and up. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Industry, about 13 percent of jobs in Westmoreland County are in manufacturing and the skilled trades.* These jobs depend on a well-developed infrastructure and a skilled workforce.
“We see significant job opportunities in skilled trade and manufacturing, immediately and in the future in Westmoreland County. An accurate census count will help us define how great the need will be for a qualified workforce and training,” Amond said.
The 2020 census also presents an opportunity for advocates and business leaders and advocates to encourage people to move to Westmoreland County.
“People who live in and move to Westmoreland County tend to stay here,” Amond said. “Our challenge is encouraging more people, particularly those with young families, to consider moving here and taking advantage of the job opportunities and low tax rates the county offers.”
The census itself will also drive jobs. The federal government will be hiring an estimated 350 workers in Westmoreland County, ranging from clerk positions paying $15 an hour to area census office managers paying $31.50. Enumerators, who conduct the count in the field, will make $18.50 an hour. Census positions also provide a pathway to future federal government job opportunities. Applicants are encouraged to visit https://www.2020census.gov/jobs to learn more.
Census counts also affect human services budgets.
“An accurate census count is important to all in Westmoreland County, especially for those who struggle because certain funding sources that impacts low-income individuals are allocated directly by population,” said Tay R. Waltenbaugh, chief executive officer of Westmoreland Community Action, which receives approximately $640,000 annually in federal Community Services Block Grants.
What’s next for the Complete Count Committee. The Complete Count Committee is organizing subcommittees who work in communities across Westmoreland County to drive census participation, especially among hard-to-count populations such as rural populations, people in poverty, college students and children under age five. The U.S. Census Bureau will provide training to the Complete Count Committee, providing a roadmap for work locally. Subcommittees under consideration include:
- Civic fabric /civic engagement, which includes libraries, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and community centers.
- Education, including young children and students in Westmoreland County’s five universities.
- Workforce, with a focus on the manufacturing and entrepreneurial sectors.
- Government agencies, including municipal managers, borough and township government officials and related trade associations.
Each subcommittee will create and implement an action plan for reaching its constituencies to make sure they understand the importance of a complete count, to dispel rumors and misinformation and to encourage everyone to complete the census.
“The federal budget to carry out the 2020 census is significantly lower than it was in 2010. This means that all of us have a much greater responsibility to make sure that everyone is counted,” Koch said. “There’s so much riding on the count that it has to be complete.”
*This includes manufacturing, utilities, agriculture, oil and gas, and skilled trades.
NOTE: Images of two Westmoreland County organizations affected by census counts, ACHIEVA and the Mt. Pleasant Senior Center, are available to media for download.
The Pittsburgh Foundation