By Claire Aiello, Vice President, Marketing & Communications
The 2020 Census is now in full swing. Last month, you should have received an invitation in the mail at your home address to participate. Hopefully you’ve already responded, but we’re asking you to please help us take this a step further, especially if you’re an employer.
The Census counts the population in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories. It is critical that Alabama gets an accurate count this year, because data collected now will be used over the next decade to make decisions about federal funding – including money for roads, schools, and community services. We’re talking about a lot of money – in fact, more than $685 billion in federal funding is tied to Census data, impacting 132 federal programs. In Alabama, that amounts to $1,567 per person per year. These programs include Medicare, SNAP, National School Lunch, Children’s Health Insurance Program, Pell Grants, Transit Formula Grants, and many more. In our state, part of the revenues from the new state gas tax going into effect over the next few years will be tied to population results from the 2020 Census.
The 2020 count also impacts local redistricting for City Council and School Board elected offices, in addition to Alabama’s number of seats in the U.S. Congress.
The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber is part of Huntsville’s “Complete Count Committee”, which also includes representatives from government, nonprofits, private industry, and citizens. The Chamber is supporting this effort through communications with employers. We’ve shared this messaging previously in Initiatives and IO, as well as our weekly newsletters and on social media. Hopefully you’ve seen it!
Think about your workforce. For example, do you have young employees? If they are between 18 and 25 years old, they were children or in their early teens during the last Census count, and they may not realize how important the Census is. It is essential that everyone participates so Alabama gets an accurate count. In 2010, Alabama had a 75 percent response rate. We must do better this time.
People may respond to the Census online, by phone, or by mail. Think of it this way – 10 minutes of your time, to fill out your Census form, can make a difference for the next 10 years. We’ve posted links on hsvchamber.org for printable Census material, including fliers you can post on your office bulletin board. You’ll also find graphics to use on social media channels and in company newsletters. Please help share the information on all platforms.
Census Day was observed nationwide on April 1. Here’s the upcoming timeline:
■ Throughout April: Census takers will begin visiting college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers, and others who live among large groups of people. Census takers will also begin conducting quality check interviews to help ensure an accurate count.
■ May-July: Census takers will begin visiting homes that haven’t responded to the 2020 Census to help make sure everyone is counted.
■ December: The Census Bureau will deliver apportionment counts to the President and Congress as required by law.
The City of Huntsville will hold several community events in the coming weeks to help people with Census form questions. Visit huntsvilleal.gov/census-2020 to find one near you.
Huntsville has actually been working for several years to prepare for this Census. The team began by verifying Census addresses, making sure homes are where they’re supposed to be, because any mistakes in those records could risk the household to not be counted in the Census. The City has nearly 220 square miles and over 13,000 new housing units added since 2010, so that’s why this process started early.
Huntsville has also formed a Hispanic-Latino Task Force to help boost participation in this important part of our community. The Task Force is connecting with Census “champions” in the Hispanic- Latino community to increase outreach and host Census events.
The City is also working to increase awareness about the Census in low-count communities – areas of the City that have historically been hesitant to respond to the Census. “Every neighborhood and community deserves fair political representation, and is impacted by the programs that use Census data to allocate funding, so it’s important that every community has a complete and accurate count,” said James Vandiver, who works in Huntsville’s Planning Department and is helping to oversee Huntsville’s Complete Count.
You can help! The City is looking for more Census champions in the community. Please tell your friends, neighbors, family, church groups, and other organizations about the Census. Encourage your church’s pastor to share it during Sunday’s sermon. We want everyone to fill out their forms and be counted this year.
The Huntsville-Madison County Public Library (HMCPL) will be supporting Huntsville’s Complete Count efforts in a big way. The Library has a far-reaching geographic presence with 12 locations throughout Madison County, and aims to reach as many of the hard-to-count groups as possible through outreach services. In fact, 99 percent of the hard-to-count census tracts are located within five miles of a public library.
This is the first year that the Census Bureau is using the internet to securely collect your information. Responding online helps conserve natural resources, save taxpayer money, and process data more efficiently. As of 2018, 10 percent of Madison County residents did not have a home computer and 18.7 percent did not have home internet access, resulting in approximately 68,000 people for whom the public library is their main connection to the rapidly digitizing world. With over 200 public computers between its 12 locations, the library is ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to participate:
■ The HMCPL has assistive technology at all 12 locations so people with certain visual, hearing, and certain physical impairments will be able to respond to the Census online.
■ The Downtown Library will be hosting one-on-one open computer labs with librarians in March. Spanish speakers will be available at those labs.
■ Partnering with Complete Count Committee to take the library’s mobile computer lab out to various locations.
Get Ready, Be Counted
■ More than $685 billion in federal funding is tied to Census data.
■ In Alabama, that amounts to $1,567 per person per year.
■ Only one Census form should be filled out per household. Even if there are multiple families in a household, only one form should be filled out.
■ Up to four mailers will be sent to each household in Huntsville, depending on how quickly the household responds to the Census.
■ If your household doesn’t self-respond, or the form submitted is incomplete, a Census Bureau employee will visit this summer to verify information in person.
This article appears in the April 2020 issue of Initiatives magazine, a publication of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.