Census committee wants everyone to be counted in 2020

Published 9:00 am Thursday, September 26, 2019

VALLEY — Everybody counts.

That is the message the of the Chambers County Complete Census Committee, which hosted its third meeting since forming Wednesday at the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce.

Committee Chairman and Chambers County Commissioner Sam Bradford reminded everyone in attendance about the importance of the 2020 U.S. Census. He said Gov. Kay Ivey has said that Alabama needs at least 70 percent of its residents to reply to the census or the state is in danger of losing a member of Congress in Washington D.C.

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Also, the 2020 Census will determine how $675 billion will be split up nationwide between municipalities and each person counted in Chambers County is responsible for $1,600.

The committee listened to Yolanda Fears of the U.S. Census office in Atlanta explain in detail about how the process is going to work in 2020.

“The census is done every 10 years and is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, and it determines power and money,” she said. “It determines how many members you have in Congress and how $675 billion will be split up in federal funding.”

She said the money also follows the numbers, not the need.

“The numbers that you get for that decennial are the numbers that you will be stuck with for 10 years,” Fears said.

She said the numbers are used for transportation projects, housing needs, drawing legislative districts and determining where new schools and hospitals will be built.

Fears encouraged the committee to stress that the census form is confidential. She said employees working for the census are legally bound to the census information for 72 years.

“Nobody is allowed to get your information for 72 years,” she said.

The census will be conducted a bit differently in 2020 as residents will be able to complete the form on their smartphone. Fears said a postcard would come in the mail in March with a code to link users to the form.

Because the census is so important for the county and state, Fears said the committee must educate as many people as possible about completing the census.

“It is very important that we educate them now about the importance of the census, so when census time comes next year, then they always know the census is coming and they have already started to complete their forms,” Fears said.

In 2000, the Chambers County response rate was 66 percent and in 2010, the response rate was 70 percent, according to documents from the U.S. Census.

Targeted populations are children under the age of 5, veterans, people with disabilities, homeless people, rural areas, low-income citizens, senior citizens, migrant workers, foreign-born individuals, people with limited English abilities and renters.

A sample census in Savannah, Georgia and North Carolina revealed that children under 5 years old are statistically undercounted. Fears said the same number of dollars are allocated for those children regardless of age as an adult. During that sample, it was also found that about 1 million children under the age of 5 were not counted.

“It is important that we really target and focus on making sure that parents and non-custodial adults count children,” she said.

Fears said the census is actively hiring individuals making between $14 and $18 an hour and will be paid mileage to help complete the count. She said it’s essential to have a diverse population of census employees who know the area and reflect the community they are serving.

“If you get somebody from the community who is from here, they may know somebody lives in a house at the end of the dirt road,” Fears said. “They may also know that those people may not fill out the census form.”

The diverse employee pool also comes in handy when breaking down language barriers in certain communities, she said.

Fears said homes would begin to get the invitation to fill out the census in March and April 1 is the federal target date to have the forms completed and returned. After April, volunteers will begin knocking on doors to help finish the count.