Culpeper County stands to economically benefit by counting each one of its citizens during upcoming operations for the 2020 U.S. Census. That was the message from census partnership specialist George Millsaps during a presentation last week before the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors.
Not getting a full count means decreased federal funding, he said.
“The Constitution says every 10 years we have to count every person living in the United States of America,” Millsaps said. “We have to count everyone once, only once and in the right place.”
College students, for example, need to be counted in their college town and not at home.
Among other things, the new census count helps distribute more than $675 billion in federal funds and more in state funds to localities based on population, he said. Every person not counted has an estimated $20,000 negative impact over 10 years on local communities, according to Millsaps.
For example, if just 50 of Culpeper County’s estimated 52,000 people were not counted for the census, that’s a loss of $1 million, he stressed, noting it could mean fewer roads or under-funded schools. The census this year is expanding the way people can respond.
For the first time ever, respondents can complete the 2020 Census online, starting in March through July. The census can also be answered over the phone from March through September 2020. Mailing in the census will remain an option.
Millsaps acknowledged distrust in government, and even more at the federal level. He assured that census data is extremely confidential, and that giving it away to anyone else besides the Census Bureau can result in a $250,000 fine and prison time.
“So I have to keep my mouth shut,” Millsaps said.
No court can require that census information be turned over or any other government agency for that matter, not even the President of the United States himself, he said. Millsaps said census information is more secure than many top secret documents and is not shared with the FBI or CIA.
Those wishing to get involved with census employment are encouraged. Currently, the Census Bureau is hiring folks in the community to count houses in their community, Millsaps told the board.
In the spring, census workers will start going door to door to get counts and collect completed forms. People are more likely to respond to someone they know from the community, said Millsaps.
“It takes an average of six tries before someone will answer the door who may answer the questions,” he said.
The most difficult segments of the population to count are people who live in rental homes and senior citizens in rural areas. The hardest to count are children younger than 5, Millsaps said. Culpeper County census tracts historically deemed difficult to count are located just north and south of town, according to a map he provided.
In 2010, 74 percent of Culpeper County residents mailed back their census compared to 76 percent in 2000. Two to 3 percent of people are not likely to answer the census at all, Millsaps said.
That’s why it’s especially important for communities to get engaged in counting their residents. To that end, the Census Bureau has asked localities to create Complete Count Committees. In Culpeper, the Chamber of Commerce will be involved with the committee along with local coordinator Lisa Peacock, director of Culpeper Human Services.
And last week, the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a proclamation declaring June 4, 2019 as Census Awareness Day. It noted, “A complete count requires that we bring together leaders from all communities of the Commonwealth, so that every Virginian regardless of racial, social or economic background is counted.”
Supervisor Jack Frazier asked, if a community’s population increases, does the pool of $675 billion in federal money also increase—to which the census specialist replied, no.
“I’m not supposed to say this, but you are in competition for that money,” Millsaps said.
He noted officials in California had allocated $90 million in the state budget for the census count “because they want as many people counted as possible.”
“They’ve done the math and figured out it’s a good return on their investment. If people are not counted, the funds will be distributed elsewhere,” Millsaps said.
Supervisor Steve Walker wondered who gets counted for the 2020 Census.
Millsaps said anyone living in Culpeper will get counted even if they are not necessarily residents. In April, a day will be set aside to count the homeless, he added.
The census report will be due to the president by Dec. 31, 2020.
The majority of job offers for the address canvassing operation will be made this summer with several thousand positions available nationwide. For information, see https://2020census.gov/en/jobs.