Alabama is behind 30 other states in filling out the 2020 Census, according to data reported by the Census Bureau this week.

This means the state is at risk of losing a congressional seat to a state reporting significant population gain since the last census was conducted in 2010.

Census representatives began promoting the importance of the census this month with the slogan, “For the Love of Alabama, fill our your census.”

Not only is Alabama at risk of losing congressional representation, but the state may also forfeit millions of dollars in federal funding to other states leading in the census count.

As of June 15, self-response to the census nationwide was at 61.4 percent while Alabama showed a self-response rate of 59.3 percent, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

This means just under half of the state’s population has yet to respond.

Lawrence County leaders continue promoting the census in our area in hopes that Lawrence will do its part to boost numbers for the state.

As of Monday, Lawrence County reported a self-response rate of 62.5 percent, only up about half a percentage since June 1, and with Courtland and Hillsboro reporting response numbers that have remained stagnant since May 26.

Census data shows Courtland response rates have sat at 51 percent, and Hillsboro continued reporting a 56.5 percent response rate, since the end of May.

Town Creek and Moulton continued leading the county in response with each reporting rates of just above 66 percent. North Courtland held the lowest response rate in the county at 47.9 percent as of Monday.

To help increase response rates, especially in the northern valley of Lawrence County, the county NAACP Chapter plans to open a booth to assist visitors with filling out their census at a special event highlighting local black and minority-owned businesses in Courtland this weekend.

The Chapter will be available at the event from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday. Their booth will be set up at the First Missionary Baptist Church, which is located at 3064 Jefferson Street, during the duration of the non-profit event. Attendants are highly encouraged to wear masks and practice safe social distancing.

According to a revised 2020 Census schedule, the self-response phase, which was originally planned to end on July 31, is being extended until Oct. 31, and the Census Bureau also extended or delayed some of its field operations in response to COVID-19.

Earlier in the year, the bureau took applications for NRFU Census employees who would conduct surveys door-to-door at households that had not responded starting May 13.

“In-person activities, including all interaction with the public, enumeration, office work, and processing activities, will incorporate the most current guidance to promote the health and safety of staff and the public,” a Census Bureau report states. “This will include recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing practices.”

According to a revised schedule, the bureau plans to conduct in-person census surveys beginning August 11.

Also according to the updated schedule, the Census Bureau will deliver each state’s population total, which determines the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and determines the allocation of federal funds to each state, by April 30, 2021.

The United States Census is conducted every ten years nationwide, and residents are required by law to participate.

According to the Census Bureau, the distribution of $13 billion in federal funds, grants, and support to the state's counties and communities are based on the census data, and these funds are spent on schools, healthcare, hospitals, roads and other vital programs across Alabama.

“In Lawrence County, for the 24 percent of our population that did not get counted in 2010, we gave away $12.7 million,” Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Craig Johnston said in a census meeting last September. “It hits home when the money flies.”

Some of the programs that receive funding based on census data include Medicaid, which received $3.9 billion in funding in Alabama, Medicare Part B supplemental insurance with $1.1 billion, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with $1.2 billion, Title I grants to local education agencies with $230 million, Section 8 Housing Assistance payments and housing choice vouchers with $194 million, Highway planning and construction with $797 million, and Community Development Block Grants at $412 million for the state.  

“We must do everything we can to ensure that the state receives its fair sharing of funding for these programs so they remain available for those who greatly benefit from them and those who may need them in the future,” Alabama’s Census webpage states. “If we do not, the need for this assistance will remain and state and local governments will be forced to replace the lost funds through alternative means. This alternative will affect everyone.”

Individual responses collected in the census are compiled with information from other homes to produce statistics, which never identifies a census participant or any person listed in their home.

It typically takes less than ten minutes to complete the census form online, according to the census website. Census takers may preview the questions online at 2020census.gov, and participants may fill the survey out online using a computer, tablet or smartphone.

Census takers may also choose to respond by calling 844-330-2020. Phone lines are open every day from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Central Time.

Residents may also respond to the census by returning a mail-in form that was issued to them last month or by the first of April. Participants who choose to mail in their responses are asked to use blue or black ink when filling out the questionnaire. After the form is completed, the questionnaire may be mailed in the envelope provided.

If the return envelope is lost, forms may be mailed to the U.S. Census Bureau National Processing Center at 1201 East 10th Street in Jeffersonville, Indiana, 47132.

For more information or answers to frequently asked questions, visit www.2020census.gov.

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