All of Douglas County’s residents have been counted in the census as it comes to a close this week, an official said Wednesday.
“Douglas County was notified by the Douglasville Area Census Office that as Tuesday, the Census count for Douglas County is 100%,” said county External Affairs Director Tiffany Stewart Stanley. “We are excited to see that so many Douglas County residents fulfilled their civic duty and completed their 2020 census form. Thanks to everyone who helped make sure that Douglas County will receive the appropriate amount of federal funding over the next 10 years.”
Meanwhile, neighboring Carroll County government officials could miss out on nearly $100 million in federal funding each year because of undercounted residents in the 2020 U.S. Census.
The deadline to respond to the Census online was adjusted to 6 a.m. on Friday morning, more than two weeks ahead of the original end date later this month.
Census data determines the distribution of about $1.5 trillion of federal funding across state and local governments. The 2010 census provided $15.88 billion to Georgia based on a count of 9.6 million people statewide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau website.
The self-response rate in Carroll County was 65.1% as of Friday afternoon, meaning the remaining 34.9% of the county, or approximately 42,000 residents, are still undercounted.
Each person in Carroll is estimated to be equal to $2,300 in federal funds, and the county’s population is nearly 120,000. Because approximately one out of every three county residents have not yet responded to the headcount, that means the county could miss out on $96.6 million in federal dollars during the next decade.
More people have not responded to the survey than during the 2010 census, when nearly one-quarter of the populations of both Carroll and Douglas counties were not counted.
Carroll County Commission Chairman Michelle Morgan said during a leadership luncheon on Wednesday in Villa Rica it is “so important” for residents to fill out the census. She added some census tracts in the county may be undercounted because of the early suspension.
But she did not blame the ongoing coronavirus pandemic entirely for the lack of survey responses because she said some residents may not feel comfortable with filling the form out if they do not understand what it means.
“It is so important that we all get counted because of federal funding,” Morgan said. “Whether you like the federal funding or not, it’s available and Carroll County should get some of our share because we’re sending some of our taxpayers’ dollars up. It’s driving me crazy that we are sitting at around 65% when it took me about three or four minutes to do it.”
The original purpose of the census is to determine how states are apportioned seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. But in the 230 years since the first population count was conducted, the census has assumed more importance.
Like other states, Georgia leaders also uses census data to draw district maps for both the state House and Senate. These counts are also the basis for how county commission districts are drawn, and how city council wards for towns like Villa Rica, Douglasville and Carrollton are mapped.
A census undercount would mean that affected groups get less political representation and fewer federal dollars than they otherwise could.
Last month, Villa Rica Mayor Gil McDougal highlighted the importance of the census during a special called city council meeting on Sept. 29.
As of Friday, Villa Rica’s self-response rate was 69.2%, meaning 29.8% of the city’s population still needed to respond to the survey. The city’s population as of 2018 was 15,541, meaning the city could miss out on $10.7 million in federal dollars if the remaining residents do not respond.
“I can’t emphasize enough how important the Census is,” he said. “It’s not just knowing how many people live here. It’s how much money is appropriated at all levels of government and how much money we are allocated in terms of our LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) and SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax) revenues. It’s very important to get accurately counted.”
Originally, the deadline to respond to the Census was Sept. 30. But U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said the census would then end on Oct. 5 despite a federal judge’s ruling allowing the survey to continue until the end of this month.
But on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court let the federal administration cut the survey off more than two weeks early to allow time for Ross to send a report to the president by Dec. 31.
The justices, without explanation, blocked a federal trial court ruling that had required the decennial count to continue through the end of October, Bloomberg reported. Associate Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented.
As of Monday, 99.9% of housing units had been accounted so far in the headcount, with 33.1% counted by census takers and other field data collection operations, and 66.8% of homeowners responding online, by phone or by mail.