Alabama last in Census response as much of Deep South lags

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama ranks last in the country for the response to the 2020 U.S. Census — with Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia also in the bottom five— as officials warn a low response rate could lead to the loss of federal funds and even a congressional seat.

Alabama so far has the lowest percentage of households responding — through self-response or follow-up contact — of any state in the country. About 81.5% of Alabama households have been counted as of Sept. 10, according to numbers from the U.S. Census. That compares to a national percentage of 90.1

Other Deep South states also had a low response rate. Mississippi had a response rate of 82.3%. Georgia had a response rate of 82.1%. Louisiana had a response rate of 82.7%. Montana also ranked in the bottom five with 82.3%. South Carolina was in the bottom 10 with a rate of 83.2%.

The 2020 Census will be used to determine how federal dollars are distributed and how many congressional seats each state will get. State officials are making public pleas for people to complete the Census, using public service announcements with celebrities and even a contest to try to boost participation.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey this week told people that it was "now or never" to complete the Census

"I've said it since our March kick-off, and I will say it again: Alabama stands to lose too much if we do not reach our goal of maximum participation," Ivey said.

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Alabama officials have long expressed concern that the state could lose a congressional seat. U.S. Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama on Friday also urged people to respond to the Census if they haven't already.

"We are dead last in the Census, and we stand a chance of losing a congressional seat. We stand a chance of losing a lot of federal dollars," Jones said during a campaign event.

Giles Ward, a former state senator in Mississippi, spent a year as head of a committee assigned to encourage people to respond to the Census. Ward said Friday that the state could receive about $5,000 per person, per year, from the federal government for various programs. "We just have to hope and believe that people are going to take the civic responsibility to respond," Ward said.

Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman, who lives in Mississippi, appeared in a public service announcement urging people in the state to respond to the Census. "Millions of dollars for Mississippi families, children, schools, health care, roads and bridges are at stake," Freeman said.

To boost participation, Alabama started the Alabama Census Bowl, in which low-responding counties have the chance to win $65,000 for their schools through Census participation.

People can fill out the Census online at my2020Census.gov, by phone at 1-844-330-2020 or by traditional paper form.