Oconee County government and community leaders were given a target when they met early this month as a lead-up to Census Day on Wednesday.
They were shown Census Participation Rates for both the 2000 Census and the 2010 Census.
Tim Carter, partnership specialist with the Atlanta Regional Census Center of the U.S. Census Bureau, told the group that each person should get three requests this year to fill out the form online or by the phone and a fourth to fill it out and return it in the mail before a Census Taker would seek to contact her or him in person.
Carter was one of two featured speakers at the Quarterly Community Meeting of the Oconee Area Resource Council held in the Commission Chamber of the Oconee County Courthouse in Watkinsville.
“The goal of the 2020 Census is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place,” Carter told the group, asking it to repeat the ditty along with him.
Guy Herring, director of the Oconee County Planning and Code Enforcement Department, told the group after Carter spoke that the Census “provides us a wealth of information that will guide decision making, funding for the community, and services that we provide.”
Amanda Davis, executive director of the Oconee Area Resource Council, had assembled the group so it could learn about the Census and then share ideas about how the Census data are used in the community.
The Oconee Area Resource Council (OARC) is a non-profit corporation that has been designated by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners as the official advisory body for human services in Oconee County.
OARC is located at 1800 Hog Mountain Road east of Butler’s Crossing and runs foods for kids programs, a mentoring program, and activities for families.
Twenty-four community and government leaders and two Census Bureau employees attended the 40-minute-long event.
Included were Toby Bradberry, mayor of North High Shoals, John Daniell, chair of the Oconee County Board of Commissioners, Dallas LeDuff, director of student services for Oconee County Schools, and Courtney Bernardi, president of the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce.
Also at the meeting were Oconee County Branch Managing Librarian Cara Karnes and Kevin Daniel, senior pastor at Bethel Baptist Church in Watkinsville. Watkinsville Mayor Bob Smith attended briefly.
Tim Carter told the group that the 2020 Census will be the 24th conducted in the U.S. The Census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution, he said.
The goal is to count every resident of the country, Carter said, and the information is used for a variety of things, including for apportionment of congressional seats and for state and local redistricting.
The Census also is used for allocation of various types of Federal funding, he said.
“Simply put, guys, we don’t share your information with the local police, not ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), not the FBI, not even the President of the United States,” Carter said.
“When we turn over the report to the president in December of 2020,” he said, “it is essentially a bunch of charts and graphs. But your personal information is protected.”
The Census Bureau for the first time is going online for completion of the survey–where possible–to save money, Carter said. The savings will be $5.2 billion, he said.
Austin Marable, Graphic Information System administrator for Oconee County, followed Carter as the second speaker at the OARC Community Meeting.
Marable said the county had worked with the Census Bureau to develop updated addresses for the Census and to identify city boundaries within the county.
Marable said the work had been ongoing and collaborative, with few issues that needed to be resolved.
“I want to encourage you to reach out to individuals that you know, organizations that you know,” Herring said when he was asked to begin sharing ideas about the Census. “Make sure that they participate when they get that card in the mail and they go online or on the phone and complete that survey.”
“We want to get everybody counted,” Commission Chair Daniell said, “so we get all the money we need to get.”
Bradberry from North High Shoals offered a similar perspective.
“Like most of the municipalities,” he said, “we’re mostly interested in making sure we can get the resources that are available.”
Tucked into the materials that Carter and his colleague from the Census Bureau, Tamara Warren, also a partnership specialist in Atlanta, distributed was the sheet listing Participation Rates from the 2000 Census and from the 2010 Census.
Oconee County’s 2010 rate of 82 percent compared with a 72 percent rate in the state as a whole.
The sheet Warren and Carter distributed didn’t list the county’s four cities, but they were available online at the Census Bureau.
North High Shoals also had an 82 percent rate, Bishop had an 83 percent rate, and Watkinsville had an 81 percent rate.
Bogart was just above the state rate at 74 percent.
The OARC program was just two days after the COVID-19 virus was first identified in two cases in Atlanta, but several weeks before the virus made social interactions with a Census Taker so problematic.
The higher the participation rate the less social interaction of that sort will be needed.
The video below is of the OARC meeting on March 4.
Carter started his comments at 2:33 in the video.
Marable started speaking at 22:16.