Congressional seat, road funding hinges on 2020 census count

Published 11:03 am Monday, February 11, 2019

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

COLUMBIANA – Some Shelby County residents may soon start receiving notices directing them toward the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 reporting form, and local officials are stressing the importance of ensuring the county records an accurate count of every individual who resides here.

Census partnership coordinator for Alabama Carletta Singleton addressed the Shelby County Commission during its Feb. 11 meeting, and outlined the steps the bureau is taking to ensure an accurate 2020 count.

On March 3, the 2020 census reporting website will go live, and all United States residents will then be able to go online and fill out the reporting form, which will replace the paper reporting forms used in past censuses.

Individuals who do not fill out the reporting form online will then receive a mailed paper form directing them to the online reporting form, and those who do not complete the form after receiving a mailed notice will receive an in-person visit from a census employee, Singleton said.

“The way to avoid having to interface with someone is to complete the online form and get it in,” Shelby County Manager Alex Dudchock said.

Much rides on the 2020 census count, county leaders said. Projections show Alabama is at risk of losing a seat in the U.S. Congress, and could lose out on federal funding if its actual population goes underreported in the next census, Singleton said.

About $675 billion is allocated to local and state governments each year based on population, and Alabama typically receives about $7.6 billion in federal funding based on population.

“Each person who is not counted represents a loss of $1,567 for Alabama, so you can see how that adds up over a period of time,” Singleton said.

She said census employees are making an effort to ensure traditionally underreported groups, such as children 5 and younger, veterans, individuals with disabilities, homeless individuals, rural residents, low-income individuals, senior citizens, migrant farm workers, foreign-born immigrants, people with limited English proficiency and renters are accurately counted in the 2020 census.

Specifically for Shelby County, an accurate population count determines how much of the state gas tax the county receives to maintain its roadways.

“Our gas tax with the state is directed toward the county based on the census count, so it’s really important,” said Shelby County Engineer Randy Cole, noting the 2020 census numbers won’t actually go into effect for gas tax allocations until 2022.

Singleton encouraged locals to always report suspected census-related scams to the authorities. She said legitimate census employees will never ask for Social Security numbers or money, and will never campaign for or push any political party or issue.