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While the 2020 census is several months away, local officials are preparing now for the important survey to ensure Wilsonians are counted.
“For Wilson County and all of our municipalities, including the city of Wilson, it is crucial that we get a complete count,” said Wilson County Assistant Manager Ron Hunt. “So much funding is tied directly to the census data that impacts health, transportation, safety, emergency management and more.”
County and city officials have been meeting jointly to coordinate census efforts. At least two regional meetings have already taken place in Wilson at the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments that included regional counties and municipalities and provided a question-and-answer session with U.S. Census Bureau staff.
“Our primary goal of our local efforts is to show Wilson residents how important census-related funding is to local programs and services,” said Rebecca Agner, the city of Wilson’s communications and marketing director. “People may not know that street maintenance funding, for example, is partially determined by our population.”
The 2020 census will feature a new option allowing respondents to complete the questionnaire online. Hundreds of millions of printed postcards and letters will be sent out in March reminding residents about the census, and those who don’t respond digitally will be mailed paper questionnaires, according to the Associated Press.
Following a Supreme Court ruling that barred a question about U.S. citizenship, 2020 census forms currently do not require respondents to indicate their citizenship or immigration status.
Hunt said the county plans to work with library branches and departments that can provide computer access to residents without home computers who wish to complete the census online.
The city and county have also noted areas that the census identified as underreporting in the 2010 census.
“Those areas will have an increased focus,” Hunt said.
County and city geographical mapping staff have worked to provide census officials with data, officials said.
North Carolina’s overall census participation rate in 2010 was 76%, while Wilson County came in at 75%, according to national figures. Those participation rates actually increased from the 2000 census where the state and Wilson County came in at 69%.
City and county officials said they plan on ramping up efforts regarding the census in late fall and into winter to build momentum toward the census count in the spring of 2020.
“We plan local awareness efforts building up to Census Day on April 1, all with the ultimate goal of counting all Wilson residents,” Agner said.
“We feel we have a good start, but the key is to increase awareness and to build momentum so that when the census arrives, we are prepared and are citizens are well-informed on their options to complete it,” he said.