Now is the time to respond to the 2020 Census, and I was surprised when I learned all the ways the Census affects our families and the whole community.

Winnebago County has missed out on an estimated $900 million over 10 years in federal funding due to an estimate of nearly 60,000 persons not counted in Winnebago County in the 2010 Census, officials say.

The impact is even bigger at the state level. Because of the uncounted population in 2010, Illinois has missed out on an estimated $5.1 billion for federal programs, like highway planning and construction and Pell Grants, officials say. (Pell grants, remember, provide college funding for students in need.)

It helps determine representation in the U.S. House, as well as local and state governments. It drives decision making for federal funding, and the data is used by schools, teachers, police, fire and the business community. It's also connected to funding for Medicaid, foster care, Pell Grants, SNAP, highway and construction funding, Section 8 and free and reduced lunch/breakfast programs.

For me, personally, the main reason I will be filling out my census questionnaire is because I am a parent of two young children and the information is so important for education and some school programs. I want my kids to have every advantage I am capable of giving them, and if taking a few minutes to fill out a census questionnaire helps them receive a more quality education, give me a pen!

Of course, I want to make sure our community has the right number of representatives in state and federal government, too. Here's an explanation of how that works:

Ready to be counted? Visit 2020census.gov to learn more and get started.