Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
The U.S. Census Bureau kicked off its national campaign this week in an effort to prepare the public for the 2020 census. In the next month or so, residents will begin to see more educational information regarding the census as city and county officials count down toward all individuals being counted.
“It’s important,” Ron Hunt, Wilson County assistant manager, said about the 2020 census. “It’s simple. It’s safe, and in Wilson County, it matters.”
In mid-March, residents will begin to see 2020 census invitation mailers. And officials say once that invitation arrives, residents can respond in three ways to ensure they are counted: online, by phone or by mail. This is the first year residents can respond online.
WHY THE CENSUS MATTERS
Wilson County, its residents and organizations receive more than $400,000 per day in federal benefits that are based totally or mostly on population, officials said.
Wilson County, which includes the city and all municipalities, needs an accurate count in 2020 so that it gets its proper share of these funds. Federal funds based on census data help not only the city and county, but towns, government agencies, the hospital, schools and businesses.
“It allows us as a government to provide the best services to our citizens,” Hunt said. “We have a growing community.”
The census also drives decisions by businesses who are looking to open new facilities expanding existing ones, officials say.
Wilson County’s overall census participation rate in 2010 was 75% — an increase from the 2000 census where it was 69%, according to national figures.
“We did a lot better than other places,” Hunt said. “But we would love to see it go over that number.”
The city and county have worked to find areas census officials identified as underreporting in the 2010 census. Officials will be focusing on those areas. Other plans on increasing the participation rate will be announced soon.
The city will hire two part-time employees who will focus on education and encouraging residents to participate in the 2020 census, according to Rebecca Agner, the city of Wilson’s communications and marketing director. The county will hire one part-time employee who will focus on the same tasks.
Officials stressed that census responses are only used to create statistics, and the information a person provides cannot be traced back to an individual or a household.
“The census responses are kept confidential for 72 years,” Hunt said.
He added that individual census information can’t be used by any government agency or individuals, including law enforcement, to determine eligibility for government benefits.