Census deadline nears

Across the nation census officials are scurrying to finish the 2020 Census, but Georgia is lagging behind at 60 percent complete; Appling County is lagging even farther behind at a low 47 percent complete as of last week. Other states are outdoing Georgia by bounds. For example, West Virginia leads the nation with a 98.8 percent completion. By not completing the census forms, this county is jeopardizing its share of federal monies for the next 10 years. The deadline for completing the forms is September 30, 2020; it is essential that everyone respond by then. It’s not too late yet, but it soon will be.

The U.S. Constitution mandates a census of the population every 10 years, which helps determine the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives and how billions of dollars in federal funds for health clinics, school lunch programs, disaster recovery initiatives and other critical programs are allocated to state and local communities for the next decade. With incomplete data from the Census, the future of communities becomes bleak and other communities are awarded their share of the money.

The Census Bureau provides several ways for people to respond to the census that avoids physical contact with other people. They can respond through the mail, online or via the phone. The web address is 2020census.gov. Even before COVID-19, those options were available.

Census information went out to people across the whole country in March of this year, but on March 15, COVID-19 forced the suspension of all field operations. The Complete Count Committee had planned many in-person activities where attendees could fill out the forms while they were there, but those plans were canceled as well. Local census officials across the nation had to readjust and decide how they could do this virtually and still maximize the number of households contacted. They needed a monumental onsite event comparable to a live one that would attract great numbers of people. However, those events proved to be more difficult to plan, but the work continues. They don’t want to leave anyone out.

“The Census Bureau is committed to counting everyone once, only once, and in the right place,” said Dr. Steven Dillingham, director of the Census Bureau. “To reach everyone living in the United States, our census takers are conducting special operations to count [even] people experiencing homelessness to ensure we have a complete and accurate 2020 count.”

In some areas, census workers must go out in person to people who do not get mail directly to their residences. They must canvas nursing homes and college campuses, and any other places where people live.

On Aug. 11, they started following up with households who have not yet self-responded, but this time going door-to-door meant wearing personal protective equipment, social distancing and doing all interviews outside of the home. Not much time remains.

If you have not completed the 2020 Census yet, you can still respond online, by phone, or by mail. If a census taker comes to your home, please cooperate. Do your part for yourselves and your neighbors.