While all Iowa communities are urging residents to take part in this year’s census, the big count is especially important to the state’s second-largest county. Linn County leaders fear the 2008 flood, which damaged hundreds of homes in Cedar Rapids, will be costly in the census — and all that results from the census.
Linn County Supervisor Linda Langston says the federal government uses census data to determine how it gives out billions of dollars to local governments. Langston says, “If we get to 200,000, we have access to more money so for us that’s really important right now.”
The federal government puts counties into funding brackets based on population. A county in Iowa with more than 200,000 residents can receive ten to 15% more money than a county below that number. A population estimate conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau just before the flood of 2008 put the county at about 208,000 residents. Langston says she’s unsure of that number now.
“I think everyone had every reason to believe we’d be above 200,000 up until the flood,” she says. “Now, we don’t know for sure how many people have moved.” That’s why she says it’s important for Linn County to have a high return rate when the census forms are mailed out in March. The 2000 census put the county’s population at about 192,000. Langston says she’s optimistic about getting more people counted because Iowa had the best return rate during the last census — at 76%. The national average is 67%.