Information about the upcoming 2020 census will start appearing around the county, starting with a booth at the Coosa Valley Fair.
“We’ll be at the fair; we’ll be at Fiddlin’ Fest; we can get into Chiaha,” said Mandy Maloney, a partnership specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, at the inaugural meeting of the local Complete Count Committee.
The CCC is made up of volunteers from various sectors who will help ensure every person in Floyd County is counted next year. Subcommittees formed Monday will tailor outreach activities in areas such as education, healthcare, community organizations and churches.
Local governments also will be helping to get the word out – including that, for the first time in 229 years, the census count will take place online.
Floyd County had a response rate of 74% in the 2010 census. That’s a little higher than the state average of 72%, Maloney said, but it’s not good enough when you consider what’s at stake.
Population determines political power – Georgia gained a congressional seat last time around – and affects the local economy in terms of federal funding and market interest from new businesses and industries.
“Children under 5 are historically under-counted,” Maloney pointed out. “The ones from 2010 are teenagers now, they’re in our school system ... How do you plan for them if you don’t count them?”
Transportation planning, affordable housing and emergency response funding are among the other areas where support is based on the number of people affected.
A Georgia Municipal Association study indicated that every person counted in 2010 brought in $1,639 in federal aid each year for Georgia schools, infrastructure, law enforcement and other needs.
“This is not nickle-and-dime stuff ... It’s not about paying more in taxes or less in taxes. It’s getting money back down to our community,” said Rome Commissioner Wendy Davis.
Postcards from the Census Bureau will start going out to each household on March 23, 2020. They’ll contain a code and instructions on how to go online and fill out the form.
Those who don’t respond in April will get another postcard, then a call, then a packet in the mail to fill out by hand. After that, enumerators will start going door to door.
There will be challenges.
County Commissioner Scotty Hancock noted that there’s an aging population in the county and Tina Bartleson of the Exchange Club Family Resource Center said poverty is another potential bar to accessing technology.
Assistant City Manager Patrick Eidson brought up the varied cultural groups and the different languages spoken here. And Cave Spring Council member Joyce Mink mentioned the need to include the deaf community.
That’s where the CCC comes in, Maloney said: recognizing areas where people could fall through the cracks and brainstorming ways to reach them.
“The census is incredibly important,” Maloney said. “We don’t get another shot at this for 10 years.”