By Gerri Miller
Autauga and Elmore County residents have completed the 2020 Census forms at a rate higher than the state average, but it still isn’t enough to keep the state from losing Congressional seats and federal funding for vital community projects.
A total of 66 percent of Autauga County residents have filled out the short survey and 63 percent of Elmore County has completed it. Both counties are ahead of the state’s 57.7 percent response rate, but one state leader says that isn’t enough.
“We’ve still got a long way to go,” said Kenneth Boswell, chairman of Alabama Counts as well as director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. “Our counties are doing well, but we are asking them to do more.”
Boswell said if Alabama’s participation rate is less than 72 percent, the state stands to lose two Congressional seats and $13 billion in federal funds that pay for road infrastructure, healthcare, and education in the state. He said the formula that determines how much money will be available for reduced price lunches in schools and Head Start programs is also based on the Census. Electoral College votes are based on the Census.
“Our response to the Census affects our opportunities for decades,” Boswell said. “One of my motivating factors more than ever has been my grandchildren. I can’t imagine a person not wanting their children to have the same opportunities we had.”
Boswell said it has never been easier to fill out the Census. It consists of only a few short questions such as name, age, and date of birth, who lives in your household, race, and other basic demographic questions. It does not ask if residents are citizens.
“It took me less than six minutes from start to finish,” he said. He said the information is never shared and is protected by the government for 72 years.
In previous years, workers would go door-to-door to ask people to fill out the census, but this year only those individuals who receive their mail at post office boxes will be visited because of COVID19 concerns.
Workers will leave a packet at the residence with information about the census and an invitation to complete it, but they will not knock on the door or engage with those who live at the residence to protect residents and workers. The workers have received safety training to observe social distancing protocols.
Boswell said as of last week, district offices have been opened in Huntsville, Birmingham and Mobile.
The original deadline for completing the census was in April but it has been moved to August 15th because of the health crisis. It can be completed online at my2020census.gov, by phone at (844) 330-2020, or by a paper form.
When asked what completion percentage the state needs, Boswell said, “as close to 100 percent as possible.”
“This is one of the most important things we can do for our families right now,” he said.