At the Feb.3 meeting of the Roxboro Kiwanis Club at La Piazza restaurant in Uptown Roxboro, Sallie Vaughn, GIS manager for Person County, and a coordinator for the 2020 U. S. Census in the county, addressed the club on the upcoming census effort. She reminded the group that it is held every 10 years, with the goal of counting each person. A form will arrive in the mail in mid-to-late March and there are 3 different ways to respond: fill it out by hand and return by mail, go online to complete and submit the form, or respond to the questionnaire by phone. Vaughn said the online site is guaranteed to be confidential, and that unauthorized disclosure of personally identifiable information is a federal crime. Census information cannot be used against a respondent by the government.
In 2010, 82 percent of Person County residents responded to the census survey, which is less than the percentage of our residents that regularly buckle their seatbelts. Vaughn’s goal is to improve upon this percentage for 2020. The county has formed a Complete Count Committee, which can provide any information or help needed. The county commissioners have allocated a budget for the effort, which allows for the various forms of advertising which have already begun.
A job fair has been held for those who want to help work toward this goal, and Person County’s quota of census workers been filled. As to why accurate census results are important, Vaughn explained that there is $1,623 per person per year allocated in federal funds based on the census numbers. Additionally, the census determines congressional representation, and North Carolina may gain a seat in the U. S. House of Representatives as a result of population growth.
Census data is also used to determine voting districts, and helps direct economic development efforts. Cooperative Extension is partially federally funded, as are the SNAP and WIC programs locally, the school breakfast and lunch programs, Title 1 funding, block grants and Medicaid.
The “hard to count” populations include immigrants and the very young. Vaughn indicated that people under the age of five are the most difficult to count group, and this represents five percent of the Person County population. Those who rent, rather than own, their residences can be difficult to count as well, and 28 percent of Person County residents are renters. African-Americans and native Americans also often present census challenges.
Vaughn noted that there are still some census worker positions available, which pay $17.50 per hour, plus travel. All survey responses are to reflect household circumstances as they exist as of April 1, 2020. During April, census workers will visit some of the public housing areas, and from May through July, those who do not respond will get a personal visit from a census worker.
In response to a question, Vaughn stated that the forms will ask for ages, but will not ask for political affiliation or social security numbers. As to the homeless, the government asks the local committees for information about where homeless people can be found.
The data becomes official in April 2021. As of April 2010, the population of Person County was about 39,500, so it will be interesting to see whether there has been significant growth in the intervening 10 years. Vaughn noted that funding for this effort has not increased from 10 years ago, which means that the federal government is depending more on the local coordinators.
The first U. S. census was conducted in 1790, and it has taken place every 10 years since. The census information is released for historical purposes after 50 years from its effective date. Vaughn closed by emphasizing the importance of accurate and complete census responses, and by soliciting the assistance of club members to encourage participation.