Local leaders urge completing census, despite COVID-19

Published 5:06 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2020

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Although the United States is fighting a nationwide pandemic, local leaders are still encouraging residents to fill out their 2020 U.S. Census form.

Last week, the U.S. Census suspended all field operations, meaning no one is going door-to-door to ensure people have received their Census and are filling out the forms.

Additionally, the census’ Update Leave Operations team has been suspended. Those team members hand deliver the 2020 Census paper form to those who do not have a mailbox, which the census website says is critical for rural communities.

The federal government has said most Americans will get a form in the mail to log on to a website to fill out the census electronically. However, Troup County Board of Commissioners Chairman Patrick Crews is concerned the census could be an afterthought in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Rightfully so, folks have got greater concerns right this moment,” he said. “But, long-term, that census is really important to our community.”

He said the census determines funding for the county, including grant opportunities. It also determines representation for the state in the federal government.

LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton also said the census has to be taken seriously regardless of the COVID-19 healthcare crisis.

“If the numbers are not correct and if our community is undercounted, we will lose millions of dollars of federal and state aid,” he said. “At times like the current COVID-19 disaster, the importance of state and federal aid is obvious. I strongly encourage all residents to participate in the census.”

Crews said while people are at home in isolation, it’s an excellent time to fill out the census form because of the extra time. He said he’s more concerned about the people who have to get a paper form or go to a public library for internet access to complete the document.

Thornton has similar concerns about the region being undercounted.

“I am hopeful that the pandemic will be over in a few months, but the census data will control how we redraw city council and state legislative districts and will determine state and federal funding for the next 10 years,” he said. “We have to get this count right.”

Crew said for each person counted in Troup County it equates to about $1,600 in funding.

“I know we’ve got many months to go on this, but we’re going to have to spend a lot of effort and resources to make sure we keep this at the forefront with our people,” he said. “We just have to impress upon our people the importance of this because it will affect us for the next 10 years.”

According to the census website, several adjustments have been made due to COVID-19. Several deadlines have been extended, including the self-response phase from July 31 to Aug. 14.