The Calhoun-Gordon County Complete Count Committee brainstormed ways to get the public, particularly hard to reach stakeholders like renters and the Hispanic community, excited about participating in the 2020 Census on Friday morning.
The training session kicked off with a discussion of all the ways Census data impacts our local community. U.S. Census Bureau Partnership Specialist Tina Nguyen pointed out that it helps secure both political power, through the drawing of federal, state and local legislative districts, and the amount of funding communities receive for things like Medicaid, SNAP, housing and education. Census data determines how more than $675 billion are spent supporting state, county and community programs.
“It is important that we count every person in the community because we want Georgia and Gordon County to get their fair share of the power and the money that is available,” Nguyen said.
In 2010, Gordon County had a participation rate of 77%. In 2000, that number was slightly lower at 71%. The goal of the Complete County Committee is to ensure every person living in Calhoun-Gordon County is counted “once, only once, and in the right place” in 2020.
“We want that number to be 100%,” Nguyen said. “Every person that is counted means more resources for Gordon County.”
Getting every person counted, Nguyen said, is something that can only be done if we understand our community makeup and which people may or may not already know the importance of participating in the Census. She broke the Complete Count Committee members into groups and asked that they complete a questionnaire about the demographics of Gordon County and what challenges they might present to a successful Census.
Some of the demographics identified as potentially hard to reach were the 6,262 county households without broadband internet access, the 3,462 children aged 5 and younger in the county, the Hispanic community, seniors and renters, who make up 51% of all residents of Gordon County.
Maria Zamora, who recently took over as the Coordinator for Family Connection of Gordon County, was in attendance on Friday. She has a history of working with the Hispanic community in the county and suggested that steps be taken to make them feel safe when completing the Census. Many, she said, may opt out of submitting responses out of fear.
“It’s important that they feel safe enough to complete the Census. They don’t always trust the government, so we want to make sure they know this information will be kept private,” Zamora said.
Other ideas for connecting with hard-to-reach stakeholder groups included sending flyers out with utility bills, asking apartment managers to have flyers up in public areas, connecting with schools and libraries to promote materials and use of public computers, and possibly even stationing a mobile computer lab in the park for a Census Day event.
To get an even more dialed-in view of Census data, Luke Nguyen showed the committee how to utilize Response Outreach Area Mapper (ROAM) technology to identify target areas in the community that may be less likely to respond to the Census. ROAM provides the committee with population data, demographic information, and a response score that shows how likely people in that area are to respond to the Census based on previous Census data.
“This is to help you target your efforts,” Nguyen said. ROAM is available online to the public at www.census.gov/ROAM.
Community members will have the option of responding to the 2020 Census online, by phone, by mail or in person. Starting in March, residents will be asked to begin responding to the Census. Reminder letters will be sent out in late March if household members do not self-respond over the internet, by phone, or through a paper version. In April, a paper questionnaire will be sent out to any remaining stragglers. By May, Nguyen said Census employees will start to knock on doors to try and get responses from those who have not yet responded.
“So, unless you want them to come and knock on your door, do it by then,” she said. “Or, if you maybe like to meet new people, you can wait.”