That’s the message officials with the U.S. Census Bureau and community leaders want local residents who have not yet returned their census forms to know.
“Getting everyone counted is absolutely critical,” Johnson City Mayor Jenny Brock said Thursday.
Getting The Numbers
The mayor said getting an accurate population count in the 2020 Census is vital for legislative redistricting, as well as for the region receiving its fair share of federal money for schools, transportation, transit and highways.
Brock also said the census count is also useful to companies who are looking to locate to a specific region of the country.
“They want to see if an area is growing,” she said.
Jean Neal, president of the Johnson City/Washington County chapter of the NAACP, said it is particularly important for minorities to respond to the census. She said completing the census will help to give a voice to those communities.
“Some people may not realize how important this is for getting money for roads and our schools,” Neal said. ‘That’s why we’ve got to get he word out in our churches and to our communities.”
Neal said the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic may have distracted some local residents from completing their census forms.
“People are doing things a little differently these days, and it may not be on their minds,” Neal said.
Returning To The Field
Census Bureau officials told members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform last month that there would be a phased restart of its field operations on June 1.
COVID-19 and the resulting state and local stay-at-home orders brought a halt to much of the bureau’s field work in early March. That included the deployment of census takers in the field, who were scheduled this month to visit the homes of people who haven’t answered the census questionnaire.
The pandemic has forced the Census Bureau to reset those visits for August.
The Census Bureau has also asked Congress to push change the deadlines for releasing the data that will be used by states to draw congressional and legislative districts. Data from the 2020 count will also be used to determine how many congressional seats each state gets and the distribution of more than $1 billion in federal funding.
Americans are mandated by federal law to respond to the census, which has been conducted every decade since 1790.
Data from the Census Bureau on Thursday showed Tennessee’s self-response rate is at 58.9%. That’s slightly lower than the national rate of 59%.
Washington County, which had a 71.9% self-response rate in the 2010 census, is at 63.1%. Johnson City’s self-response rate is recorded this week at 59.8%.
Brock said area residents can complete the census forms by mail, by phone or by going online at my2020census.gov.
The Census Bureau mailed questionnaires in mid-April to homes that had not yet responded. Officials encourage those residents to complete and mail back their forms as soon possible.
The quickest way to respond to the 2020 Census is online with a Census ID, which easily links the response to that person’s home address. This ID can be found on the letter or questionnaire the resident received from the Census Bureau.
Residents also have the option of completing the questionnaire by phone by calling 1-844-330-2020. The Census Bureau is offering a callback option to better respond to requests during periods of high call volume.