HUNTSVILLE, Ala — U.S. Census workers are making a final push for Alabamians to participate in the 2020 Census ahead of Thursday’s deadline. The decision to end the collection of Census data on October 15 follows a protracted legal battle over the deadline.
“I do believe with these last hours that Alabama’s count will go up in self-response because it seems to be all hands on deck,” said Marilyn Stephens, who manages US Census operations across seven southeastern states, including Alabama.
As a state, Alabama currently ranks 35th for its response rate, with 63.5 percent of households filling out their census forms; a few percentage points below the national average of 66.8 percent. The data collected will be critical to determining how federal funds are doled out across Alabama and its counties for the next decade.
“That’s why the schools are able to provide the free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs, because of funding. Programs for seniors such as meals on wheels. Social services including unemployment benefits. So the question is, do you deserve your fair share Alabama,” asked Stephens.
On average, northern Alabama counties have had a far higher participation rate in the Census than their counterparts in the south. Madison County has a self-response rate of 76 percent; Morgan County at 71.4 percent and Lauderdale County comes in at 68.5 percent.
Meanwhile, a number of more rural counties – including Dekalb County at 53.8 percent – on average, have a far smaller percentage of households participating in the census. Stephens explained that many rural homes rely on PO boxes, which Census forms can’t be sent to, and must instead be hand delivered. The covid-19 pandemic temporarily put a halt to those deliveries.
“So those households received their materials much later than the 95 percent of the state,” said Stephens.
Stephens is hoping to make up for lost ground in the final hours of the Census, by encouraging anyone motivated by her words, to pass on her message to others.
“Then ask them once they complete to call 20 more people. We can get this done,” said Stephens.
For those who have yet to fill out a census form, Stephens said you can respond by phone, mail, or online.