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Census recruiter Eldridge speaks at Lions Club

VALLEY — John Eldridge, a recruiter for the ongoing U.S. Census, was the guest speaker at Monday’s meeting of the Valley Lions Club. He said that it’s urgent for Alabama to have a good count this year, but there’s a lot of work to be done in the coming weeks for that to take place.

Less than 60 percent of Chambers County residents have filled out and returned their census forms. Enumerators will soon be going door-to-door trying to get as many of those who are yet to be counted in the final tally.

Alabama is on the bubble this year and could lose a congressional seat, possibly two.

“I have nothing against the state of California,” said Eldridge, “but I don’t want to lose a seat to them or to some other big state. I’d much rather us keep that seat for Alabama. We will have to have the best count we can to do that. I don’t want someone from California making decisions for us.”

Eldridge worked as an enumerator for the U.S. Census in 2010 and has worked for 12 weeks this year as a recruiter for Chambers and Lee counties.

The first U.S. Census took place in 1790. Marshals went from door-to-door in the effort to count everyone. This nationwide count has taken place at 10-year intervals ever since then. 2020 marks the 24th time a census has taken place.

“We should be through with it by now,” Eldridge said, “but the pandemic put everything on hold for a time. There’s still a lot left to do.”

There’s much at stake with your local area’s census count.

“Billions of federal dollars will be divided according to [the census],” Eldridge said. “Money for roads, schools and hospitals will be divided according to what it says. We will lose $1,600 for every person who should have been counted but for some reason was not.”

Article I, Section II of the U.S. Constitution mandates a population count once every ten years.

Eldridge said that Census workers are carefully trained to keep all information confidential. There’s a pretty good way of keeping workers sworn to secrecy. Anyone who doesn’t can be fined $250,000 and sentenced to five years in prison.

“Census workers will not ask you for donations, your Social Security number, your bank information or your credit card information,” Eldridge said. “If they do, report them. This year, census workers won’t even enter your house. They will ask you questions from your front porch while you’re inside.”

Eldridge said that undocumented persons are being counted.

“The goal is to count everyone who is living here, and that includes those who are undocumented,” he said. “We want to have the best, most accurate count we can get and that includes undocumented people.

“The more you can count the better. Your final count will determine the funding you will get for the next 10 years. A good count will help your police department, your fire departments, your hospitals and your schools.”

Eldridge is asking for help in getting the word out about the census.

“The counting isn’t complete, and we need to count every person we can,” he said.

“All census workers will have an ID badge with their photo on it,” Eldridge said. “If they come to your house, cooperate with them. It won’t take them long to fill out the form for you, and it will help your community for the next 10 years. I want us to get our fair share. We won’t if we don’t have a good census count.”

Eldridge said that census workers are well paid. In Lee County, for example, they are making $18 an hour plus mileage.

“That’s pretty good pay for a part-time job,” Eldridge said.