Editor’s note: Pat O’Connell chairs the Franklin County Complete Count Committee, which oversees a community-wide Census effort that includes representation from businesses, churches, schools, libraries, and both cities. She can be reached at poconnell1414@gmail.com.

Okay. Now it’s time to get serious about completing the Census. Really, folks. We are embarrassing ourselves. As of Sunday, April 5, only one in five households had responded to the 2020 Census. The national average is almost 50 percent. If the count were to end today, all of us could look forward to as much as 80 percent loss in funding for our community from state and federal programs that depend on census data for distribution. And our voters would mean even less to our state and federal elected officials.

An undercount of our population today will result in a decade of headaches as our seniors, children, schools, veterans, and health care systems suffer.

The COVID-19 has disrupted all our lives. Even the operations of the 2020 Census. Regardless, we need to do this particular civic duty while appreciating the enormous benefit in being able to use the internet or the telephone to respond. For the first time ever, this method will permit us to be counted without requiring human intervention - an intervention that today could put ourselves and others at a health risk. It’s nice sometimes how the big picture works out while you’re busy worrying about the little pieces.

For the sake of the future of your community, act now. Do not wait to receive an invitation. Do not wait until you are having a better day. Go to my2020census.gov. That’s the website that enables you to respond with only your street address. And it is so user-friendly. See, another benefit of the virus-related adaptations.

Or respond by phone by calling 1-844-330-2020 (English) and 1-844-468-2020 (Spanish). Since the call center operations are also affected by the virus restrictions, it’s best to call very early or very late. Like when you’ve watched all the movies and read Facebook until the wees hours, that’s a good time to call. Or if you go to bed at 9 but get up in the middle of the night for that glass of water, call then. Anytime between 7 a.m. until 2 a.m.

Finally, if you respond for your household and assist one other Franklin County household respond online or by phone after this publication date, let me know. I’ll put your name into a jar. At the end of April, we’ll draw a name and gift both you and your friend with a $50 gift certificate to your favorite local restaurant! Just keep your receipt to claim your gift certificate.

Do it today! We all count and we need to be counted in Franklin County.

Pat O’Connell