For the residents of Fayetteville and Lincoln County, the 2020 census will get underway in March, and local officials are already working together with federal census staffers to make plans for the best results possible.
The census only comes around every 10 years, but it has a crucial role in local government, said Lincoln County Mayor Bill Newman as he met with members of the community’s Census Committee, a group of people he brought together to serve as ambassadors and help prepare for getting the most complete count of everyone residing in our community.
Comprised of county and city leaders, as well as a cross section of other representatives of the community, the committee listened as Tia Zanghi, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau out of the Philadelphia Regional Census Center, highlighted the importance of the census and shared how the process will work.
“Everyone counts,” she said, adding that the census aims to count every person, including children, living in the U.S. once, only once, and in the right place. “The U.S. Constitution mandates that everyone in the country be counted every 10 years, so completing the census is part of your civic duty.”
The distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds, grants and support to states, counties and communities are based on census data, she said, explaining that for every person not counted, the cost amounts to $10,000 over the next decade.
In addition, census results are used to reapportion the U.S. House of Representatives, determining how many seats each state gets, as well as to redraw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts, and even the districts represented by local county commissioners and school board members.
Residents here will begin receiving invitations to participate on March 10, she continued, noting that 2020 will be the first year that households will have the option of completing questions online as well as by mail or by phone.
“As a matter of fact, online response is the preferred method,” Zanghi said, explaining that 95 percent of households will receive their invitation to participate in the census in the mail. How households accept that invitation, or choose to participate, will be up to them. In addition to completing the questionnaire online, they can complete it on paper or by phone.
“And regarding phone calls, it’s important to note that your residents will not be contacted by census workers by phone; however, your residents may call in to respond,” she said, going on to stress the confidentiality and the fact that information won’t be shared with other federal agencies. She noted, too, that under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, every Census Bureau employee is sworn for life to not share your personal information.
By law, your census responses cannot be used against you by any government agency or court in any way – not by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), not by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), not by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and not by U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE).
“The law requires the Census Bureau to keep your information confidential and use your responses only to produce statistics,” she said.
By the end of April, several reminder postcards and letters will be sent out to households that haven’t yet completed the census. Then, if a response still hasn’t been received, the Census Bureau will follow up in person.
When the last official U.S. Census was conducted in 2010, Lincoln County’s population stood at 33,361 – estimates put that figure at 34,117 today. For the City of Fayetteville, the 2010 census showed that the city’s population was 6,827 – estimates indicate that figure has grown to 7,017 today.