5-8-2020 – Census efforts scaling up

Posted on: May 8th, 2020 by admin

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May 8, 2020

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By Garrett Stell
gstell@newstopicnews.com

 

May 07, 2020 4:07 PM

 

In 2010, after seeing Hudson’s population dwindle in consecutive census reports, Town Manager Rebecca Bentley made it her mission to get an accurate count.

 

“I was determined that something was wrong with the way they were counting our people,” she said.

 

That year, the town kicked off a concerted effort to make sure that all residents knew the census was coming and that it was important that they respond. The town sent out flyers, kept a census official stationed in Town Hall and even offered assistance from the Hudson Police Department to residents who felt unsafe having someone visit their door.

 

In 2000, Hudson’s population was counted as 3,114. When preliminary results came back from 2010, that number had jumped to 3,783. Bentley is convinced that the jump came down to responsiveness.

 

“Without hardly building a house, our population increased 20 percent,” she said.

 

Some of the strategies that Bentley was able to deploy in 2010 aren’t possible at the moment because of COVID-19 restrictions, social distancing and the U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to suspend most in-person collection efforts. But the census response period has been extended until Oct. 31, and the bureau announced this week that ground operations and in-person follow ups are scheduled to resume in July and August.

 

Census Day was originally scheduled for April 1. Caldwell County’s response rate was 57 percent as of Thursday, according to statistics from the bureau’s website.

 

Caldwell County officials are encouraging residents respond to the census by phone, mail or online.

 

During the regularly scheduled times when families can pick up meals from Caldwell County Schools staff, the school system is helping get information about the census into the hands of parents. According to information from the Census Bureau, one in 10 young children was left out of the nationwide count during the 2010 census, a rate far worse than any other age group.

 

Because census data affects the amount of funding that states and local school systems receive for federal programs such as the National School Lunch Program, Title I grants and the Head Start program for early childhood education, making sure that parents are responding to the census and having their children counted is critical, Superintendent Dr. Don Phipps said.

 

The census touches almost every part of life in Caldwell County, said Deborah Murray, the executive director of the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission.

 

“It affects economic development, community development, quality of life,” she said. “This includes highways, transportation projects, rural electrification, business development funds, natural disaster recovery, Medicaid, supplemental nutrition programs – all of these things hit us where we live.”

 

Population growth is a key factor in measuring the economic viability of a region, Murray said, and having an inaccurate count can discourage new businesses – which often base investment decisions on local growth – from entering the county. It also affects political boundaries, representation and the distribution of approximately $675 billion in federal program funding, she said.

 

“When you think about it, nearly a third of all federal assistance is determined by the decennial census,” she said. “Factors like population, age, income and household size all impact the bottom line.”

 

Murray also said that local officials have noticed concerns among residents that the census may be used to track who is and is not a citizen, but there are no questions about citizenship on the census, she said.

 

“There’s no way for anyone to know whether or not the person filling it out is or is not a citizen,” she said. “It’s about essential services provided to everyone who lives here in our country.”

 

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