Floyd County staffers have corrected about 21,000 addresses on the map used by the U.S. Census Bureau — in the first round of preparations for the 2020 population count.
There’s still much more work to be done to ensure the county gets credit for every person living within its borders when the count gets underway.
“Cities and counties need to make sure they take care of their own ... The federal money and the state money that come with that head count are tremendous,” Rome City Commissioner Wendy Davis said.
Census numbers affect local awards for programs ranging from highway construction, education, housing and food stamps to school lunches, foster care and Peachcare for Kids.
Medicaid and Medicare Part B also are on the lengthy list affected by the Census.
Additionally, voting districts will be redrawn in 2021 based on the data, and Congressional seats will be reapportioned among the states.
“We all pay taxes. Some say they pay too much taxes,” Davis said. “We want to make sure we get as many of those dollars as possible back in our community.”
Davis will be leading a panel on census preparations at the Georgia Municipal Association’s annual convention in Savannah on June 24.
Meanwhile, Rome, Floyd County and Cave Spring are forming a Complete Count Committee while Planning Director Artagus Newell is directing a full-on update of current data.
“You have been working on the census since the fall of 2017,” Gretchen Lugthart of the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission told county commissioners during a Tuesday presentation.
The NWGRC is advising Newell’s team and offering more hands-on assistance to counties in the region without enough professional staff.
Lugthart said the first step — painstakingly checking each existing address — turned up 45,000 in the unincorporated area and Cave Spring and 18,000 in Rome. That includes 11,000 new addresses in the county and 1,400 new ones in Rome that didn’t appear on the Census Bureau’s map.
It also includes about 8,000 corrections in the county and 13,000 corrections in Rome. Lugthart said they were minor issues but could have affected the count. They were mainly the result of how the Census Bureau recorded local information sent since the last, 2010 census.
“Sometimes the Census Bureau puts all the dots at the end of a street and you have to move them to the correct parcels, or a street name is wrong ... You’ve got really good data points now,” Lugthart told the board.
The team is now reviewing census blocks on the Floyd County map to make sure the divisions are correct.
The next step will be to add all the new construction since the first map update, including those pending through April 1, 2020. Lugthart said there are at least 200 new residences so far.
“The census can’t count somebody if they don’t have an address,” she said.
No packets coming
The preparations are especially important this time around because of the way the census will be conducted.
Instead of large packets mailed to each address, the bureau will be mailing postcards telling residents how to fill out their questionnaires online or by phone. Davis is not the only one concerned that the postcards “will end up where a lot of mass mailings end up.”
Census takers will then start visiting addresses that haven’t responded. That’s also where the Complete Count Committees are crucial.
“You do that at the local level, starting with an ad campaign or marketing campaign to reach the people you know will be difficult to reach,” Lugthart said. “Choose community leaders, educators, clergy — anyone who is trusted and can help.”
Among those more easily missed are the elderly, children under 5, people in gated communities, new immigrants, people who speak little English, those displaced by natural disasters and residents in hidden or overcrowded housing.
Low-response areas from the 2010 census are already available. In Floyd County they’re mostly in Rome and make up about 13% of the current population. Overall, 78.9% of Floyd households mailed back their 2010 census, according to the Georgia Census 2020 agency.
Lugthart said that after the census starts local officials will be able to look up areas where the response rate is low.
The count will likely run through the fall of 2020. The numbers must be delivered to the President of the United States by Dec. 31 of that year. Plans are for the states to get their official numbers by March 31, 2021.