Attention all snowbirds. There are important things to know regarding the upcoming 2020 Census. The most important thing is making sure your count is registered in Michigan.

Census numbers are used to distribute billions of federal dollars every year. Distributions go to schools, businesses, farms, roads, services and more.

Countless numbers of planning grants, business calculations, marketing efforts and needs assessments are based on census figures.

It’s estimated that $1,800 is lost for every person not counted. That’s huge.

In 2020, the U.S. Census Bureau is counting on most of the initial response to be online. This is a change from the past.

Beginning in late March, all homes will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. You can respond by phone or online.

If you’re a snowbird and spend six months or more in Michigan each year, it’s important to wait until you return home to respond.

Why? There will be a unique Census code sent by mail to your Michigan address in March. To respond online and be counted in Michigan, you’ll need this code. Responding without the code could register you as living in another city or state, and your home state and town loses out.

Please wait. Michigan, your county and your municipality need you. There’s no problem with waiting. Counts will be recorded into the summer.

The second important thing is to reach out to all friends, neighbors and acquaintances to encourage participation in the census.

In 2010, Michigan had a 78 percent participation rate in the census. Some of our local areas had participation rates as low as 27 percent. That’s missing a lot of people.

Everyone can help by reminding and encouraging others to participate. Responses are secure and cannot be used against you in any way.

So, what’s the plan?

As mentioned, a self-response period starts at the end of March, with April 1 as the official 2020 Census Day. From late April though August, local teams will be organized to help with nonresponse follow-up.

This means you might see census workers in your neighborhood this spring and summer. They may be verifying addresses in preparation for the census, dropping off census materials, or collecting responses to the census or a related survey.

How can you verify that someone really is a census worker?

First, check to make sure they have a valid ID badge with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. If you still have questions, you can contact an official census hub or regional center to speak with a Census Bureau representative.

In every locale, a 2020 Census Hub is being established. In Berrien County, the Berrien Community Foundation has stepped up for this important role.

Given the importance of the census to local infrastructure, we owe them thanks and our full support.

Analyzing Berrien County’s 2010 Census participation and new 2020 factors, such as how many homes are underserved by broadband technology services, a decline in 2020 participation is anticipated. It’s estimated that $44 million is at risk in Berrien County alone.

Want to help? You are needed.

For more information, contact Kathy Stady at Berrien Community Foundation at kathystady@berriencommunity.org.

Meanwhile, planning a trip to a warmer climate this winter?

Good for you. Safe travels. Just make sure you’re part of Michigan’s 2020 Census count, we need you.

Lynn Kellogg is CEO of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 or visit www.areaagencyonaging.org. The Generations column appears each Saturday in The Herald-Palladium.