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Guillermo Vasquez and Russellville fire marshal Justin Green display a map of the county as 2020 Census Committee Chairman Dick Rowland explains the challenges to getting an accurate census count within the City of Russellville.

Push continues for accurate 2020 census

About 259 days – that’s the amount of time Franklin County has to figure out how to ensure an accurate census count for 2020.

As explained by census.al.gov, every ten years, a census tabulates every person living in the U.S. The U.S. Constitution requires this count – and the numbers have a big impact on communities.Having an accurate census count for Alabama is vital to many programs that affect the state, including areas of healthcare, food, education, roads and bridges, congressional representation and more.

Although a lot rides on an accurate count, achieving accurate numbers isn’t always easy. To prepare for the upcoming census and work to get a correct count for 2020, Franklin County as appointed the Franklin County Complete Census Count Committee, led by Dick Rowland.

Rowland and his committee have spent the past several months crunching the numbers, so to speak, and with the help of municipal and county officials, the committee has grand plans for the upcoming census.

“We see a 2020 census result for Franklin County of 120 percent of the current census estimate of 31,500,” Rowland said. “That will be 37,800, a 6,300 increase in count. Most of that count will come from the Latino community.”

Rowland said a concern of the committee as well as local leaders is that many Hispanic families in Franklin County were not counted in the 2010 census – either because of being in the country illegally or just because of a general fear and mistrust of a government census.

Rowland and his team are working to combat that fear and mistrust by getting the word out about what an accurate census could mean for Alabama – specifically, potentially $10M more per year in federal funding.

“We failed, we believe, in 2010 to record a large portion of (the Hispanic community), especially non-citizens and their children,” Rowland explains in a document details the committee’s purpose. “In 2020 we strive to motivate and inspire a count of 90 percent or more of that population. Further, the census gives us an opportunity to take major improved and ongoing activities and actions to integrate the Latino population into the whole of our community, giving each of us both individually and collectively more resources to pursue a more fulfilling future.”

Rowland attended the Russellville City Council meeting July 1 and Franklin County Commission work session July 8 to provide updates on the committee’s progress and seek continued support from those two groups.

In dispelling potential fear around the census, Rowland said the “census workers and Franklin County officials do not care whether a person is documented or not when it comes to the census. The only care is, are they here in Franklin County?” he explained. “If they are, we want them counted. By law and long established custom, names, addresses and other personal information will not be revealed until 72 years have gone by.

“For census purposes, Franklin County has a policy of ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Rowland added. “Our interest is in an accurate, honest and careful count with no connection in any way with law enforcement. We are interested in promoting thriving peaceful communities – not fearful, destructive ones.”

Rowland is making plans for officials to speak to different groups and seeking out opportunities to share information and rally citizens to participate in the census.

As 2020 approaches, the census procedure will look something like this:

  • About mid-March 2020, people will receive a letter in the mail from the U.S. Census Bureau. It will describe the census and instruct citizens how to fill out online, by phone or using a paper form.
  • Census counters will begin to record responses.
  • Responses will continue to be accepted in any of the three ways until August 2020 or so, but beginning about the end of May, census workers will begin to spread around the county knocking on the doors of houses from which there has been no response.
  • That action will intensify in June, July and August 2020 if there are still households not counted.
  • From late September to December 2020, the census folks will be tabulating results.
  • Dec. 31, 2020, the final report goes to the President of the United States.

Gov. Kay Ivey provides update on 2020 Census preparation efforts

Gov. Kay Ivey recently provided an update on the preparation efforts for the 2020 Census. With the 2020 Census drawing closer, the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is seeking public input for a grant program to assist with local outreach efforts.

Alabama’s goal for the 2020 Census is to obtain high participation in every Alabama community, municipality and county. ADECA issued the Request for Information related to $1 million in funding allocated to the agency in the  for the 2020 Census Grant Program. Public comments about the grant program were accepted in writing through July 12.

“The 2020 Census will play a major role in shaping our state’s future, so it is critical we do everything we can to educate all of our residents about the importance of participation and motivate them to complete and submit their census forms in March and April 2020,” Ivey said. “Efforts by local and grassroots organizations will be critical to this goal, and I am pleased the legislature allocated funds to assist these efforts. I invite your input as we take the first step toward success of this grant program.”

Now that the public comment period has closed, ADECA will work to design the full process and establish deadlines for this grant program, which will provide funding assistance to help with local, grassroots outreach efforts, specifically those in hard-to-count areas and groups. The agency will host a grant application workshop once all the procedures are in place and applications are ready to be accepted.

Dick Rowland and Franklin County Census Committee shared input for the grant program.  

More information about Alabama Counts and the 2020 Census is available at: www.census.alabama.gov.