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One week left in census counting, Alabama response rate still last in country

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY. – The deadline for participating in the 2020 census is Wednesday and Alabama’s response rate remains the lowest in the nation.

With a congressional seat and federal funding in jeopardy, Gov. Kay Ivey and other state officials urge Alabamians to respond to the census as soon as possible.

“We still have census workers knocking on doors, so, I am anticipating our numbers to go up from that,” Ivey told ADN in an emailed statement. “Bottom line is that Alabama has too much at stake, so, fill out your census today. Time is of the essence.”

Alabama is ranked last in the nation for the amount of households counted at 89.8% as of Tuesday, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Alabama’s self-response rate — surveys conducted online, by mail or by telephone — is at 62.8%, lower than the national rate at 66.2%.

Coosa, Perry and Wilcox Counties have the lowest self-response rate in the state as of Wednesday at around 37%.

The census is constitutionally required to count all U.S. residents every 10 years.

The low response rate could affect the many federally funded programs in the state like free and reduced lunches in schools, Head Start programs, housing assistance, heating and cooling assistance through a low-income home energy assistance program, infrastructure projects and education.

Current projections also show Alabama losing one of its seven congressional house seats if responses are too low.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs has been leading the census counting effort in Alabama. In the final days of the campaign, the agency plans on advertising during Auburn and Alabama football games this weekend, radio advertisements, social media advertisements, a peer-to-peer campaign and continued engagement of businesses, local governments and faith-based groups.

The Alabama Census Bowl has also improved certain counties’ self-response rate as well, ADECA communications director Mike Presley told ADN.

Choctaw, Sumter, Macon and Tallapoosa counties are the final four in the March Madness-style competition for a grand prize of $65,000 for local schools.

Presley said ADECA will continue to push for the maximum amount of responses until Sept. 30.

“The window for every Alabamian to make a positive impact on our state for the next 10 years is scheduled to close on Sept. 30,” Presley told ADN. “If you haven’t already, participate today. If you have, please encourage your family and friends to participate.”

Census counting was originally meant to be finished by the end of July, but because of the challenges faced from the coronavirus pandemic, the deadline was pushed to Oct. 31.

A deadline change to Sept. 30 was announced last month after the bureau said it was concerned about meeting the federal deadline to get final numbers to President Donald Trump by the end of the year.

There are currently multiple cases in federal courts asking that the deadline be extended back to Oct. 31.

The Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Commerce, which houses the bureau, released a report last week stating the accelerated census schedule increases the risks to the accuracy and completeness of the count.

Alabamians can fill out their census form on my2020census.gov, by phone at 844-330-2020 or by returning the paper form by mail.

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