Every 10 years, the federal government collects census data to determine the population and demographic information of every region in the country. With the 2020 Census just around the corner, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly asked the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development Disctrict to lead the data collection efforts on the peninsula.
KPEDD Executive Director Tim Dillon gave a presentation on Tuesday’s Assembly meeting to discuss this and other projects being undertaken by KPEDD.
Dillon said during his presentation that KPEDD is currently putting together an outreach committee to increase awareness of the census and encourage participation. Representatives from each peninsula community will begin outreach efforts in April, Dillon said while during an interview Thursday.
According to Dillon, an accurate census count is important because it ensures that federal dollars for social programs and loans go where they are most needed.
“We need to make sure that people are counted and counted correctly, because it means dollars in the long run,” said Dillon during the presentation.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s website, more than $675 billion in federal funds is distributed annually based directly on the information collected by the decennial census.
The census also determines how congressional districts are drawn, which means that an inaccurate count could leave communities with inadequate or inaccurate representation.
Because the census asks very specific and personal questions — including the number of men, women and children in a home — people are sometimes hesitant to respond.
Dillon said that the goals of KPEDD’s outreach committee are to counteract that reluctance and increase awareness about the local benefits provided by accurate census counts.
“It’s about education more than anything else,” said Dillon.
Beyond the census project, Dillon updated the assembly on the status of KPEDD’s board of directors, spoke about an emergency planning questionnaire given to small businesses and the rollout of KPEDD’s new website.
KPEDD’s treasurer Tim Redder has been chosen as one of the Alaska Journal of Commerce’s ‘40 under 40,’ a program recognizing young professionals in the state for outstanding commitment to their local communities.
“We’re very pleased that he’s going to be receiving that honor,” said Dillon.
In January KPEDD published an Emergency Planning Questionnaire to get feedback from local businesses on how prepared they are in the event of natural disasters or other emergencies.
Dillon said that the 30-question survey is meant as both data collection for KPEDD and a way for businesses owners to determine how prepared – or unprepared – they actually are. According to the presentation, less than 50% of respondents said that they have a disaster plan in place. Only 50% of those with disaster plans have actually tested those plans to ensure they work.
Finally, KPEDD will be updating its website to include interactive displays of their Situations and Prospects Reports. These reports are comprehensive provide comprehensive economic and demographic data that is compiled by KPEDD annually.
Dillon said during the presentation that many people have expressed interest in seeing how their city or community’s economy directly compares to others on the peninsula, so KPEDD’s updated website will have this information accessible as well. The new website is scheduled to be up and running by July 1 of this year.