2020 Census set to begin

Alert letters set to go out beginning in March

Posted 2/14/20

The 2020 Census is gearing up in Chatham County.

The census, a Constitutionally-mandated population count that occurs every 10 years in the U.S., helps to determine the share of federal money a …

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2020 Census set to begin

Alert letters set to go out beginning in March

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Posted

The 2020 Census is gearing up in Chatham County.

The census, a Constitutionally-mandated population count that occurs every 10 years in the U.S., helps to determine the share of federal money a county or state receives for health, transportation, education, human services and housing, in addition to being used to determine the allocation of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives

Chatham County, in order to try to get as accurate an account of its population as possible, has tasked Courtney Cooper-Lewter, an analyst with the county, with coordinated efforts to raise awareness through the Chatham Complete Count Committee. The group’s participants, who have been meeting since August, have been reaching out to businesses, setting up information tables at events and collaborating with non-profit groups to ensure that as many Chatham County residents as possible respond to the 2020 Census.

The group is also working with the Hispanic Liaison in Siler City to communicate to the Spanish-speaking community the importance of the census as well as allay any fears about the privacy of the information collected.

“By law, the Census Bureau cannot share your answers with the IRS, FBI, Welfare, Immigration-or any other government agency,” the U.S. Census Bureau website says. “No court of law, not even the President of the United States, can find out your answers. And the same law that keeps your answers out of the hands of these agencies, prevents the Census Bureau from selling or giving away your address to people who want to send you mail.”

What the Census means to Chatham

Chatham County’s response rate in the 2010 census was estimated to be at 81 percent, higher than the state average of 74 percent for the same year. The 2010 census indicated Chatham County’s population to be 63,505, which in turn resulted in allocations of about $132,961,408 in federal funding out of the $16.29 billion the state receives annually. But the state now estimates that the county is likely at about 76,000 residents now, an increase of 19.7 percent.

“If the county continues to grow at this pace and we are under-counted, we may not have sufficient resources in place to support the community,” Cooper-Lewter said. “For example, if we undercount the number of children ages 0-5 living in an area in Chatham, then that school for that area can become overcrowded because we anticipated less children in the area.”

Most importantly, Cooper-Lewter said, she wants people to understand that completing the census “is safe, easy and so important.”

“It will have a lasting impact on Chatham County for years,” she said.

Next steps

Households will begin receiving letters inviting them to complete their census online or by phone. This year is the first year the census can be completed online. Cooper-Lewter recognizes the challenges with having the census online, including lack of internet access as well as concerns about entering personal data online. But this year’s form is the “short form,” according to Cooper-Lewter, which only has 10 questions and does not request any personal information about income or questions about citizenship.

April 1 is the official “Census Day,” the day the program hopes to use as a benchmark date to encourage residents to complete their census. If residents do not complete their census by the end of April, census workers will begin visiting individual homes to complete the count. Census workers will likely be “on the ground” between May and July.

Reporter Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.

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