You may have noticed that the U.S. Census Bureau is asking Congress for a delay in the schedule for the 2020 Census, and that will likely be given, as COVID-19 has delayed all the activity; final figures probably won't even be turned in until next year, and they haven't even finished hiring people in the field to help. The media budget will be increased. But at least field operations will resume June 1. Plans to start going door-to-door for those who didn't respond on their own are delayed from May until August.
Getting a good response to the Census is vital, as it is crucial to getting government grants and funding and helps with industrial and business recruitment. Alabama thankfully has at least come up to 51.7 percent in self-response (without additional help), while the nation is at 53.4 percent. With a few exceptions, the north half of the U.S., and the West Coast is mostly light blue or blue on an online Census map to reflect that much of a response, 51 percent to 56 percent. The south half from Arizona to North Carolina is yellow to reflect a lagging rate of 41 percent to 50 percent - except for Tennessee, Alabama and Florida, which are light blue. (Not surprisingly, the virus laden Northeast is lagging, as is West Virginia, Wyoming, Colorado, Alaska and Hawaii.
The fact Alabama has at least turned blue is a tribute to officials who have pushed for a response, but we still have a way to go. After all, Alabama had a 62 percent self response in 2010.
Worse, while the I-65 corridor has turned blue, counties like Walker, Winston, Marion and Fayette are still lagging. Walker on Tuesday had a response of 47.5 percent; its response on the internet was 22.9 percent. Winston County was 43.8 percent, and about 21 percent on the internet; earlier this month I could tell that the county had the 12th lowest response in the state. Marion and Fayette counties have both crossed 50 percent.
Regional planner Beau Cooper of the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments (NACOLG), the regional planning commission for the area which includes Winston County, told me lack of internet service appeared to be hurting Winston County's response, and I'm sure the same could be said of Walker County in areas. Worse, many areas were late in getting mailed material due to the virus, and the stay-at-home order certainly had an effect.
Mike Presley, a spokesman for Alabama Counts and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, said Census workers in the rural areas had also put on hold delivering some material to post office boxes where the Census didn't have an address.
“Even if you live in an area with a P.O. Box and and you haven’t got anything and you want to, and you can go on the internet, you can go online to my2020Census.gov and fill it out just using your household address, or they have a toll-free number, 1-844-330-2020. You can call that and do it over the phone,” he said, saying that would be the easiest method.
As for the importance of the Census to the area, Cooper said everyone would have been better prepared to deal with the pandemic with a larger head count.
“All of our local hospitals would have more money for resources, for ventilators and masks and things people are running short on. If our Census was done correctly 10 years ago, we would all be in better shape right now,” Cooper said.
Presley confirmed that when one goes online to where the identification number is asked for, one can go to a link saying you don’t have one. Clicking on that will prompt you to enter your address and will allow filling it out. A similar situation will happen with phone calls.
Presley noted while past Census forms have been longer and more complex, this year’s Census involves 10 easy questions in five to 10 minutes, such as name, age, whether you rent or own a home, race and sex.
“You give more information when you filling out something to get on Amazon,” he said. Moreover, the information cannot be shared with other agencies, is kept secret for 72 years and federal Census officials have assured ADECA its computer systems are secured against hacking and other breaches.
State Rep. Tracey Estes, R-Winfield, whose district includes Double Springs, and other officials said salaries are not asked for the Census.
In short, the Census is too simple and too crucial to sit around and leave it to the state and Washington. Hopefully, written forms for those that need them will come. But I think it is important to get the word out you can call now - right this minute - 1-844-330-2020 or go to my2020Census.gov and answer some fairly simple questions in five minutes, questions no one would mind giving on the street.
All they want really is a headcount, and that will mean millions of dollars for the county, and indirectly it will put money in your pocket or give you and your community services you need through extra grants.
I hear a lot of people talk about how politicians waste money around here. Well, if we as citizens don't do this little thing, that will ultimately be our fault for wasting taxpayer funds we could get in this county and in our cities - and even sometimes in our own homes perhaps, based on allocations based on populations.