Steven Dillingham

U.S. Census Director Steven Dillingham speaks to a crowd of more than 200 elected officials and representatives from around the state about the importance of the 2020 Census in August at Cullman Regional.

The 2020 Census doesn’t officially begin until March, but workers are already out in the community to verify addresses in preparation for next spring.

Many people may not be aware that census workers are already out in local neighborhoods, and they may be worried that someone is knocking on their door claiming to be working on the census, so it is important to get the word out and make sure the workers can get the right information, Cullman Economic Development Agency Special Projects Coordinator Susan Eller said.

“We just want to make sure people knew they were out there,” she said.

Only 72 percent of Alabama households filled out their census forms in the 2010 Census.

“Our participation was nowhere near where it needed to be,” Cullman City Clerk Wes Moore said.

A low turnout in 2020 could be devastating for Alabama’s representation in Washington. If the state population drops, there is a strong chance constituents will lose a congressional seat.

At a local level, the effects of a low count could come in the loss of federal funding that is determined by population. Area schools, health care, infrastructure projects and food programs could see cuts.

“If you want to help your county or city school systems, you definitely need to fill out your census,” Moore said.

Officials are in the early stages of setting up a local committee that will work throughout Cullman County to make sure everyone is counted.

According to Moore, early suggestions include: Placing public computers in communities that will allow residents to fill out the census form, creating a mobile unit for special community events or in parking lots near some of the busier businesses and locations in the area.

“We’re going to try to make it accessible and easy for people,” he said. 

Beginning next March, the census will become available online and over the phone. Paper forms will be mailed to those who do not complete the census through one of those methods. If a person doesn’t mail back the paper form, workers will go to their home to try to get them to do it in person.

“If you don’t want them to come see you, fill out your form,” Eller said.

Many people believe that the Census Bureau can estimate its population count. They don’t think they need to fill out the form if it is obvious that they are living in their homes, but they must fill out the census to be included in the count, Moore said. 

“If you don’t actually fill out the census form in one way or another, you are not counted,” he said. “Even if they see you in the house, they are not going to mark down ‘one’ and go on to the next house.”

The Census Bureau is also still hiring local residents to work in their communities to make sure everyone gets counted. To view available jobs and apply, visit 2020census.gov/jobs.

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