To The Editor:

The Mad River Valley Housing Coalition is one of many organizations in the Mad River Valley urging you to take a few minutes to fill out the 2020 census form by hand or online. The short time it takes to fill out this form can have major implications for Washington County and the state of Vermont.

While some people think of the census as a political tool that helps to set representation in Washington, DC, and state capitals, its influence spreads much farther than this. Information obtained from the census helps to direct billions of dollars in federal funding each year. If Mad River Valley residents do not submit their census forms, the needs of our community will be misrepresented. This misrepresentation could lead to the state missing out on its fair share of the federal funding that helps to address a diverse range of needs, including housing and infrastructure.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provide housing support for millions of people across the country. They have developed special funding programs for the creation of housing for rural communities, veterans, elderly, low-income persons and persons with disabilities. HUD and the USDA are among the federal funders who depend on information found in the census to decide the amount of money that goes to housing assistance in each state. An undercount caused by lack of participation will mean other communities will be allocated housing funds that may be needed locally.

Housing assistance is more than putting a roof over people’s heads. Having a steady place to call home increases financial and emotional stability and allows people to spend a greater portion of income on other necessities such as food and health care. The privilege of feeling secure in your home gives you the opportunity to create ties to your neighbors and community. Housing stability should be something we strive for, for all our neighbors here in The Valley.

Take a few minutes to make sure our community is accurately represented and fill out the 2020 census form here:

Kaziah Haviland-Montgomery, Waitsfield, VT, is a consultant for the Mad River Valley Housing Coalition.