Alabama Counts! 2020 Census Chairman Kenneth Boswell warns that there is much at stake if the state’s response rate continues to lag behind the national average.
Reports of county response rates show Wiregrass counties still have a long way to go in achieving the state’s goal of 75% population response:
» Houston County, 58.9%
» Dale, 54.7%
» Geneva, 54.6%
» Coffee, 57.7%
» Henry, 49.1%
Alabama’s overall response rate is at 58.3%, slightly less than the national rate of 60.3%.
Officials have warned that federal cash appropriations and open U.S. House of Representatives seat were at stake, but Boswell said elected officials fear that Alabama could lose up to two representatives now.
“Residents are lagging behind. We are worried about the apathy of residents not filling those forms out and what the Census truly does mean for them,” Boswell said. “We need to get the response rate as close to 100% as we can.”
The federal government uses census figures to allocate money to state governments for education, welfare programs for low-income population segments, road and infrastructure funding. More than $13 billion in census-derived funding is at stake, as well as consideration for new and expanding economic development opportunities moving forward.
State government departments also use census data to redistribute taxes, like the gas tax recently passed by the state legislature, to counties and municipalities.
“That’s something they really need to take into consideration,” Boswell said. “Local tax dollars could go up. State tax dollars could go up.”
The census form takes less than 10 minutes to fill out with simple demographic answers like name, age, race, birth date, and gender. The online form can be found at 2020census.gov.
The self-response deadline has been extended to Aug. 14 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
State and local census officials have been reaching out to residents through cold calls, texting, and social media. They are beginning delivering census forms to homes of people who only accept mail at a post office box.
Boswell said census takers will begin going door-to-door to homes in August.