County residents urged to respond to 2020 Census by Saturday

Though the outbreak of COVID-19 has thwarted plans for a Lawrence County All Count Day on Saturday, county officials are still urging residents to respond to the United States 2020 Census by March 28.

Lawrence County residents began receiving invitations to respond to the census earlier this month, County Administrator Heather Dyar said.

Dyar said an All Count Day in Lawrence County was scheduled to help county officials determine which communities throughout the county lacked stronger response numbers.

Though computer labs at several public sites, including several county schools, had announced they would be open for the All Count Day, the spread of the new coronavirus and recommendations of social distancing from public health officials prevent the sites from being opened.

“In light of the coronavirus outbreak in Alabama, we won’t be able to open any public computer labs on that day, but for those who can respond online at their homes, please do so by the All Count Day. Responses are also accepted over the phone or by mail,” Dyar said last week.

Census takers can respond in one of three ways: online, by mail or by phone. 

The quickest way to respond is by going online to www.my2020census.gov, but participants must complete the questionnaire in one sitting. Progress on the census form will not be saved, but census takers may preview the questions online at 2020census.gov.

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

Some homes received a census questionnaire or will receive a questionnaire when they receive their invitation to respond, but all households will receive a paper questionnaire if they do not respond online or by phone 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. Census takers are asked not to use a pencil. 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.

An accurate count on the 2020 Census is crucial for Lawrence County to receive a fair share of federal funding for many public programs, according to local leaders.

“We were told last time, in the 2010 Census, that we left $32 million on the table on terms of government funding because we didn’t get an accurate count,” Superintendent Jon Bret Smith said.

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.

“This funding translates into monetary support for public services like filling potholes in our county roads, education programs in public schools, Medicare, and many other state and local programs on the community and state levels,” said Craig Johnston, the director of the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.

Without an accurate count, the state is not only at risk of losing $1,600 in federal funding per person left uncounted, but Alabama is in jeopardy of losing one congressional seat. The number of U.S. House of Representatives from each state is determined by population, which is also used to draw congressional and legislative districts.

“Losing one more representative means losing one more voice speaking on behalf of Alabama in Congress,” IDB President and CEO Tabitha Pace said. “We have a lot riding on the census, and this information will affect us for the next 10 years.”

Pace, who said she has heard many concerns from county residents who are uncomfortable sharing their personal information, reminds residents that law protects their confidentiality.

The Census Bureau is bound by law to protect information shared by participants in the census. The law ensures that participants’ private information is never published and that answers in the census cannot be used against any resident by any government agency or court, including law enforcement, according to census officials.

The Census Bureau will never ask for a person’s Social Security number, money or donations, anything on behalf of a political party, or for bank or credit card numbers. Tips for avoiding fraud or scams from anyone posing as an employee or member of the Census Bureau can also be found by following the link listed above.

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.

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

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