Getting an accurate Census count for 2020 continues to be a struggle, according to Census officials, and a good bit of the blame can go to the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
Marilyn Stephens, Assistant Regional Census Manager for the 2020 Census for the Atlanta Region, was a recent guest on WDUN's Morning Talk with Martha Zoller, and she said the Gainesville response rate to the Census lags behind both the state and national response rate.
"The national response rate is a little more than 64%," Stephens said. "In Gainesville, 56.4% have responded and the state of Georgia overall is 59.9." [Editor's note: Numbers accurate as of Aug. 26, 2020.]
The goal is to count 100% of American households.
Stephens said Census workers are now going door-to-door to collect information, but people are naturally distrustful of strangers - especially during the pandemic. She said residents should be reassured that workers are wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of illness, plus they are easily identifiable as legitimate employees of the U.S. Census Bureau.
"They will have a photo ID," Stephens said. "They will have a very noticeable Census bag on their shoulders that's black with a white patch with United States Census Bureau in blue. The device they use to conduct the interview will have the Census Bureau insignia as well as the Department of Commerce [insignia]."
If the workers don't get an answer when they knock on the door, then they will leave a card for residents, a card that gives instructions on how to complete the Census interview online or by phone.
Despite ongoing educational campaigns about the Census, Stephens said many citizens still don't understand why there's a need to be counted.
"The number one reason people are reluctant to participate in the Census is mistrust of government, fear that the information they provide to us will be used against them or their family members in some way " Stephens said.
Add the fear of contracting coronavirus to the mix, and getting Americans to participate has been tricky, according to Stephens.
Census data is used to determine the number of government representatives each state elects; plus, population determined by the Census helps the government with distribution of federal funds.
The new deadline for collecting Census data is Sept. 30.
For more information on the 2020 Census, follow this link.
The Atlanta Region is responsible for census operations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina.