ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — As we head into 2020, residents in Baldwin County have a lot to consider, but one thing they may not have thought about that Baldwin County officials want to bring to the forefront is the upcoming 2020 Census.
Baldwin County officials gathered for a Complete County Committee kickoff meeting on Friday at the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Operations Center.
“A lot of people may be wondering why we held the meeting here,” said Sherry-Lea Bloodworth Botop. the County Commission’s Public Information officer/Community Engagement manager, “it’s because EMA is the center of activity for a lot of what goes on in Baldwin County.”
Bloodworth Botop, along with Tanner Jones, research analyst with the Baldwin County Economic Development Commission, and Jean E. Hogue, partnership specialist with the Atlanta Regional Census Center, conducted the kickoff meeting on Friday, Nov. 22 and will be working with city’s and communities throughout Baldwin County as Census Day — the day Census cards go out throughout the nation — nears on April 1.
“We cannot stress enough how important it is that everyone be counted,” said County Commissioner Billie Jo Underwood.
One of the biggest reasons for a good census count, Hogue said, is the fact that census figures determine the number of Congressional seats each state receives.
“We could lose one or more Congressional seats if we don’t have an accurate census count,” Hogue said. “It’s also used to determine the allocation of the $676 billion allocation of federal funds handed out annually. The money does not follow the need, it follows the numbers.”
The Decennial Census was created by Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution enacted in 1790 and states “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers ….”
“We have surveys that are conducted periodically that determine income, education level and other factors,” Hogue said, “but this is the big one. This provides a count of every U.S. citizen and where they are on April 1, 2020.”
Census data is in providing assistance to tribal, federal, state and local governments in planning programs and services for education, healthc are, transportation, social services and emergency response, as well as the allocation of funds, redistricting of state legislative districts and forecasting future transportation needs.
“We are not getting anything out of this but our future,” said County Commission Joe Davis III.
In August of 2018, Gov. Kay Ivey signed an executive order establishing the Alabama State Complete Count Committee under the direction of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA).
Since that time Complete Count Committees have been formed in cities throughout the state. Including Foley, Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Fairhope. Committees are also being formed in Bay Minette, Daphne and Spanish Fort, Bloodworth Botop said.
“But what about the smaller cities and rural communities throughout Baldwin County that need help in reaching their residents?” she said. “We determined early on that we needed a Complete Count Committee for all of Baldwin County that can provide support for those areas.”
The county is also working with Sherry Sullivan of Riviera Utilities to provide education within the county’s school system.
“Children are one of the hardest groups to get an accurate count on, because in a lot of cases, parents don’t know they need to be counted,” Hogue said. “If we can partner with schools to get education out to students, they can go home and tell their parents and encourage their parents to get the forms filled out and recorded.”
The county, in partnership with the Economic Development Alliance, has applied for a $20,000 ADECA grant to provide education materials for the census, Bloodworth Botop said.
Officials will also be working with community groups, senior citizen groups, church groups, civic groups and any other organization who would like to help get the word out.
“We are looking to target the areas that traditionally don’t fill out the forms,” Hogue said, “and we need leaders in those communities who can encourage residents on the necessity of completing the census.”
Unlike in 2010, Hogue said, much of the census in 2020 will be done electronically.
Beginning in March, residents will receive a card in the mail with a code, directing them to a website where they can use the code to fill out a survey online. The card will also include a toll-free phone number to call to get the form filled out.
If they do not fill out the form online or by phone, then a form will be mailed to them with an opportunity to fill out the form by hand and mail it back.
In 2010, statewide, only 72 percent of residents statewide filled completed the census, Hogue said. That number was slightly higher in Baldwin County, but in several communities throughout the count, as few as 55 percent of residents completed the census.
“Governor Ivey said she believes we can get that number to 90 percent and I think we can make that happen,” Hogue said, “but we need your help.”
For more information visit census.gov or census.alabama.gov.