Why the Census is more important now than ever

By: Lucy Berry DeButy

The new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has many Americans wondering how they can help.

While you’re self-quarantining to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, one of the best — and easiest — things you can do is complete the U.S. Census.

The once-in-a-decade count will have a huge impact on local and state economies for years to come.

“Though the hearts and minds of Alabamians rest on the unprecedented health emergency we are currently battling, we must remember that the results of the 2020 Census are vital to our collective future in terms of $13 billion in federal funding for important community programs, economic development opportunities and Congressional representation,” said Kenneth Boswell, Alabama Counts! chairman and director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).

The Huntsville/Madison County area is doing well, but there’s still a long way to go in getting a full, accurate count of our area, said Huntsville City Planner James Vandiver.

COVID-19 impact

With COVID-19 impacting communities across the nation, Vandiver said adequate federal funding and equal political representation are more important than ever.

“While everyone is rightly thinking about the pandemic right now, the results from the Census will guide the country over the next 10 years,” he said.

The City’s original plan was to hold Census Help Desk events around Huntsville during the month of April, providing laptops to help residents fill out the form online with volunteers nearby to answer questions.

While everyone is rightly thinking about the pandemic right now, the results from the Census will guide the country over the next 10 years.”

Instead, the City has adopted an “assist from afar” strategy as a result of COVID-19.

“We’re still here and happy to help anyone with Census questions, but only over the phone or by email,” Vandiver said.

Next steps

The emergence of COVID-19 means the Census Bureau has delayed many of its initiatives by two weeks. For example, the deadline to complete the Census was moved from July 31 to August 14.

Vandiver said Census workers will begin visiting homes that have not filled out their form around Memorial Day.

“So we want everyone to practice social distancing and finish the Census by mid-May if possible to avoid a home visit,” he said.

Those who haven’t completed their Census form yet may receive a paper form (similar to the ones seen in past Census efforts) within the next couple of weeks. If you need assistance completing the survey, you can call call 1-844-330-2020.

The Census Bureau is still hiring temporary positions for work through the summer. Visit http://2020census.gov/jobs for more details.

The 10-question survey takes just 10 minutes or less to fill out. Participation in the Census is required by law and will not impact whether you receive a stimulus check related to COVID-19.

Gov. Kay Ivey said if Alabama’s count falls shy of the 72 percent participation rate recorded in the 2010 Census, the state would likely experience less representation in Congress, the loss of millions of dollars in community funding, and fewer economic development opportunities.

“Census participation is not merely a count; it’s a roadmap for our future,” she said. “Now more than ever, the urgency of an accurate count is vital to Alabama.”

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