Population counts are tied to big federal money for federal, state and local programs, and accurate counts make all the difference.
The decennial U.S. Census holds sway over the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars in annual funding for projects ranging from school construction to community development.
The federal government owes it to all of America, including our Hoosier state, to allocate the right resources and instill the necessary leadership to oversee an accurate census count.
The official 2020 census is a short three years away, and there's some reason for concern.
U.S. Census Bureau Director John Thompson recently announced he would retire from the agency at the end of the month.
As Times Statehouse reporter Dan Carden reported Monday, this leaves the bureau leaderless at a time when census testing should be ramping up.
We have no indication from the Trump administration when a new leader will be named, and the census director is among more than 400 federal positions requiring a U.S. Senate confirmation for which President Donald Trump has yet to make an appointment.
Trump's proposed budget, though subject to many likely changes by Congress, allocates only $100 million in new money for the U.S. Census in 2018, far shy of the $250 million recommended by the former president.
Census spending normally would continue growing through 2020.
Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, also noted the importance of the census in apportioning federal and state legislative seats. Without an accurate census, citizens don't receive proper representation under the law.
"It's just really important to have good population counts," Soliday told Carden recently. "Particularly up here in Northwest Indiana, where we seem to have a bit of a migration going on."
That migration is important to the entire state, where Hoosier leaders have led marketing campaigns to entice Illinois residents to move to more tax-friendly confines.
Those efforts would be dulled by a less-than-accurate census effort.
Our federal government should act expediently to name a new U.S. Census director and provide the necessary funds to conduct an accurate 2020 count. There is far too much at stake to shortchange the essential endeavor.