HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- The city of Huntsville is gearing up for the 24th United States Census beginning April 1, 2020, and they say the results will provide a snapshot of the population.
Mayor Tommy Battle called the Wednesday afternoon Census conference a "lead up to the Census count." He said the city is working on educating the public on the count in order to have accurate representation.
The mayor was joined by representatives from organizations that stand to gain or lose funding based on the upcoming Census data. “It’s about roads, transit, schools, and medical funding,” Battle said. “The number of services – and individuals - impacted by the Census count is far-reaching, and it’s why we’re standing together as a community to remind Huntsville residents to be counted and to make sure their friends and family are counted.”
The number of Alabama’s congressional seats, the proportion of City Council and School Board seats per Huntsville resident, and nearly $685 billion in federal programs per year will be determined by results from the upcoming 2020 Census.
Connie Graham, the City of Huntsville’s Census liaison explained that the U.S. government bases its allocation of funding for federal programs like Pell grants or the National School Lunch program based on population data received every 10 years from the constitutionally mandated U.S. Census. It also includes funding for highways, public transit, support for firefighters and families in need. Business owners rely on census information to make decisions about where to open new stores, restaurants, and manufacturing plants. The data informs which products and services businesses choose to offer.
“It’s 10 minutes of your time, but those 10 minutes will have 10 years’ worth of impact on shaping your future, on shaping Huntsville’s future,” Graham said.
For Devyn Keith, the Huntsville City Council President representing District 1, the 2020 Census is an opportunity for neighborhoods who have traditionally been considered ‘low count areas’ to stand up and be counted.
“Historically, areas of town rich in diversity have low or inaccurate counts,” Keith said. “We’re going to change that this time around. Everyone – no matter your socioeconomic status – deserves to be counted, and we’re going to make sure everyone feels comfortable and has the knowledge they need to complete their forms.”
The Hispanic-Latino Advisory Committee for Huntsville’s Complete Count effort, led by Ramon Santiago, has been making strides to reach the Hispanic community in Huntsville. Their mission is to ensure the Hispanic community feels comfortable completing the Census.
“The important task we have at hand is making sure our Hispanic community in Huntsville is well informed on the importance of being counted, providing education on how to do it and being available to them for questions or to address concerns,” Santiago said. “The slogan of our campaign is “Tu Cuentas” or “You Count” and we look forward to continuing to share this important message.”
The City of Huntsville’s Census outreach efforts will focus on reaching historically ‘low count’ areas and vulnerable populations such as the elderly, who Census liaisons say often need extra assistance and are often targeted by scammers who send materials meant to mimic official Census report forms.
“Whether your 90 or 9 – you count, and we need to ensure our community receives funding for medical and social services that can benefit people of all ages and abilities,” Graham said. “We’re also trying to remind parents to count every child in their household on April 1.”
Counting all the children in a household may sound obvious, but Graham says previous data shows households with small children are vulnerable to providing an inaccurate count. Children of all ages should be counted, Graham says.
Another target for the City’s outreach efforts will be college students. Officials say college students need to be counted in the city in which they reside on April 1, 2020.
“I’m proud of our citizens, businesses, and organizations across industries for working collaboratively to ‘get out the count’ for the 2020 Census,” Mayor Battle said. “This is what makes Huntsville so special – we work together, we look out for one another and we think strategically to set ourselves up for success for years to come.”
For Census timeline, volunteer opportunities and details on local outreach efforts, visit HuntsvilleAL.gov/Census or e-mail Census@HuntsvilleAL.gov.