From left, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, Balltown Mayor Sherri Sigwarth and Iowa Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg speak outside Breitbach’s Country Dining in Balltown July 16. Gregg and Pate presented the U.S. Census Bureau’s ‘Key to the Future’ award to the community in recognition of Balltown being the first town in Iowa and second in the nation to get a 100% response rate for the 2020 census.

Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg and Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate presented the “Key to the Future” award to Balltown July 16 for reaching a 100% 2020 census response rate.

Gregg and Pate — chairman and vice chairman of the State of Iowa 2020 Census Complete Count Committee, respectively — issued the award as part of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ challenge to Iowa’s 942 cities and 99 counties to boost census responses.

“We want to congratulate Balltown for being the first community in Iowa to reach 100% and for being the second in the country,” Gregg said when presenting the award at Breitbach’s Country Dining.

The only other community that’s garnered 100% of responses is North River, North Dakota.

The U.S. Census Bureau completes the census every 10 years based on its list of every housing unit in the country and collecting self-responses from residents. People can complete the census online, over the phone or through mailers sent by the bureau.

Census data is then used to divvy up federal funding and decide the number of allocated seats in the House of Representatives for each state.

“It takes 10 minutes to impact the next 10 years,” Gregg said.

Balltown Mayor Sherri Sigworth accepted the award on behalf of the town, which has a population of 73.

She challenged other Iowa mayors to also reach a 100% census response and offered a free piece of pie from Breitbach’s to mayors who reach that goal.

Sigworth said she had personally offered to help several Balltown individuals fill out their census in order to reach this milestone.

“When I looked at our census report, I saw that we were at 93.7%, and I said ‘Oh my gosh, we’re so close,’” she said. “I’m a little bit competitive, and we’re in a small, tight-knit community, so I sent out a few texts and made a few calls to people who hadn’t completed theirs yet.”

Both Gregg and Pate encouraged all Iowans to reach the same milestone as Balltown, especially since $8.7 billion in federal funding is at stake for Iowa based on the response rate.

“Without good numbers, we can’t receive our fair share to keep our communities vibrant,” Pate said.

Gregg added that a number of federal bills giving COVID-19 aid to communities, such as the CARES Act, are also impacted by census responses. Iowa received the minimum amount allocated from the CARES Act, $1.2 billion, based on previous census data, he said.

Iowa is also ranked fourth in the nation in 2020 census responses at 68.1%.

Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are currently leading the nation, but Gregg said the goal is to take over the top spot.

“Iowa’s competitive by nature, I’m competitive by nature, Governor Reynolds is competitive by nature,” he said. “We’ve been close in 2000 and 2010 at No. 2 and No. 3.”

Pate added that he’d like to see Iowa jump up in census responses in the next few weeks instead of waiting until the end of October when Census officials follow up with any residence that hasn’t responded.