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Census committee wants to ensure Nash residents count

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ROCKY MOUNT — The 2020 Census is still more than seven months away, but Nash County last week began gearing up now to make sure every county resident is counted.

County government hosted a midweek “kickoff” luncheon at Nash Community College to introduce about 50 people from around the county to a Complete Count Committee, an ad-hoc group of community leaders and volunteers who will work with the U.S. Census Bureau to boost local awareness and participation in the national census.

The United States conducts a national headcount every 10 years as mandated by the U.S. Constitution, said Kenneth C. Wilkins, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau. The census’ purpose, he said, is threefold: the data is used to reapportion the 435 members of Congress; to assist in redistricting at the local, state and national level; and to distribute more than $675 billion a year to state and local governments based on population.

“The goal of Census 2020 is to count everyone once, only once and in the right place. Everyone counts,” Wilkins said.

Depending on the count, he noted, North Carolina could gain a 14th seat in Congress, and the count will be used for the next 10 years to determine how a total of $4 trillion will be distributed among the states, counties and local governments.

“Nash County deserves its share,” said Nash County planning director Adam Tyson.

The Census Bureau collects a lot of statistical data every year from a small sampling of Americans, but the actual required decennial census is only about 10 questions and takes 10 minutes, Wilkins said.

The early part of next year, and some events this year, will be dedicated to explaining and promoting the census. From early March through official Census Day on April 1 and a few weeks after, Americans will be able to respond directly online for the first time, by telephone or by mail.

For those who do not respond on their own to a series of written notices or phone calls, census workers will follow up to make sure the count is complete.

During the 2010 Census, Wilkins said, Nash County had a participation rate of 77%, 1% higher than the state as a whole. The point of the Complete Count Committee is to boost the participation rate to as close to 100% as possible, reducing the need for follow-up by census workers.

The data collected is totally confidential, used only for statistics and cannot be traced back to an individual person or household, Wilkins said.

Wilkins and Tyson explained to the group that the committee being formed wants representatives from as many different groups as possible — education, local government, business and industry, faith groups, civic and volunteer organizations, minorities, media, seniors and others. A chairman and subcommittee chairmen will be selected as organizing continues.

Those who participate will spend the fall planning Census outreach and educating residents on the importance of being counted.

Target populations who are vulnerable to being missed or undercounted include young children, people with disabilities, veterans, the homeless, senior citizens, migrant farmworkers, foreign-born immigrants, low-income and underserved households, people with limited English proficiency, renters and “people living in rural America,” he said.

The next meeting for those interested in being part of the committee will be Sept. 25.

“The more informed households are about the 2020 Census operations, the better their understanding of the census process becomes, thus increasing their willingness to be a part of the successful enumeration in 2020,” Wilkins said.

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