Every decade the United States conducts a census of its citizens and while for many this may feel like an inconvenient questionnaire, the results of the Census impacts $675 billion dollars in funding and congressional representation in the House of Representatives.
What is a simple form to fill out for most will also have a big impact on housing, education, transportation, employment, health care and public policy for the state.
While Alabama is behind the national average response rate, the good news is that due to the coronavirus pandemic officials have extended the Census deadline to Oct. 31.
Alabama is currently sitting at 59.8 percent response rate, a figure which prompted Gov. Kay Ivey to call Alabamians to action. Lee County's response rate is 58.9 percent, while Auburn has responded at a rate of 55.5 percent.
“We can and must do better,” said Ivey. “We remain at serious risk of losing federal funding and representation.”
Kenneth Boswell, the director of Alabama Department of Community Affairs, also expressed concern over the turnout of the Census so far.
“As it is now, we would lose one if not two representatives in the House,” he said.
The Census not only affects the state’s representation, but also the ability for states to get funds for free and reduced lunches for schools, or Pell grants for college students, both of which are at-risk of either lost or reduced funding depending on the Census results.
To combat the low response rate and ensure that Alabama Counts, beginning on Aug. 11 the 2020 Census Non-response Follow Up will launch workers who will go door to door to conduct the Census to those who have not completed it already.
These workers will be Alabama citizens who have been trained right down to how to put on and remove their masks in a safe manner. These Census takers will knock, step away, identify themselves and conduct the interview outside in a well-ventilated space.
Marilyn Stephens of the Census Bureau’s Atlanta Region is proud of the response rate from several Alabama counties but says that more still needs to be done to avoid a knock on your door in the fall.
“13 counties in Alabama lead the national average response rate, but we still have a lot of work to do,” said Stephens. “The work is for those households who have not yet completed the Census. My message today is to avoid the knock.”
Along with door-to-door interviews, the Alabama Department of Community Affairs is promoting the Census through social media campaigns and developing the concept for a healthy competition within schools for those students whose families have not completed the Census.
To avoid a knock on your door this fall, and to ensure that Alabama retains its current representation and funding, be sure to complete your Census by website, phone, or mail.
“Fortunately for us, this is a marathon not a sprint,” said Ivey. "There is still time to complete your Census and avoid the knock."
To complete the Census by website, visit 2020census.gov.
To complete the Census by phone, call 844-330-2020.