By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – With the Census deadline looming in the fall, state leaders are preparing for a final push to encourage all residents to participate and avoid the negative effects of an under count.
Gov. Kay Ivey, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs Director Kenneth Boswell and Marilyn Stephens of the U.S. Census Bureau led a media outreach video conference Tuesday in which they discussed ongoing Census efforts and unveiled some new messaging themes aimed at convincing residents to complete their Census forms.
Alabama actually leads the seven state southern region in response rates at 59.8%, but Ivey said that still “won’t cut the mustard” if Alabama intends to keep its current number of congressional seats and proportional federal funding.
“The 2020 Census is critical to the future of our state, and this has been made even more clear by the coronavirus,” Ivey said on the video conference. “It’s critical for the the more than $13 billion in federal funding that comes to our state. It’s critical for keeping our current congressional representation.
“Simply put, a 60% participation rate won’t cut it… that won’t cut the mustard.”
Examples of new marketing messages from Big Communications
Boswell said Alabama would lose one of its seven U.S. House seats and possibly two if the counting ended now. Previous estimates have indicated the state needs upwards of an 80 to 90% response rate to avoid losing one a seat when the congressional map is updated next year.
The $13 billion in annual federal funding Ivey mentioned going toward programs including school nutrition, health care, infrastructure and housing also is at stake with the Census, which occurs every 10 years.
Census workers will begin Aug. 11 canvasing neighborhoods and knocking on the doors of those who haven’t yet completed the survey online or mailed in the form, officials said. But people can “avoid the knock” by completing the Census before then, Stephens said.
“We want everyone to stop what you’re doing, go to your computer or smart phone, call that toll-free number, or dig out that paper request we sent in the mail… and fill it out,” Stephens said. “We want your family to avoid the knock… complete your Census online, by phone or by mail so we don’t have to come to your door.”
The last day to respond to the Census in October 31.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.