As of this week, only 65 percent of Louisa County households have responded to the 2020 U.S. Census, making the county’s response rate the lowest in the region and giving local officials reason to worry.
Every 10 years, households across the country are tasked with filling out the Census form. The Census goes further than just determining population size: The self-reported data taken from the survey determines federal funding for counties, cities and towns. In other words, more people, more money.
Bob Babyok, Louisa County Board of Supervisors chairman, said he’s surprised that more people aren’t alarmed about the relatively low share of county households that have responded to the Census. He said county staff he has talked with have pointed to the relatively low response in Louisa in the 2010 Census as a comparison.
“They miss the most motivating part, which is that we lose $2,000 each year for 10 years in revenue for every man, woman, and child that doesn’t respond,” he said. “I don’t believe they realize what’s at stake here.”
Data from the Census also factors into drawing political districts at the federal, state and local levels, to ensure everyone’s vote holds equal weight in elections. Redistricting is scheduled to take place in 2021, with political districts established for the next 10-year period.
The data can also help communities plan for future infrastructure such as schools.
Babyok said that with only two-thirds of Louisa households responding to the Census, he would ask: “Why are you satisfied with what happened 10 years ago?”
If not enough people respond to the Census, Babyok said, the county may not receive the funding it needs to support public infrastructure. The alternative, he argued, will be to raise citizens’ taxes.
People can fill out the Census online, by mail or by phone. For households that have not yet filled out the Census, they may get a visit from a Census taker in person, or receive a reminder email.
The 2020 U.S. Census has been a source of controversy this year because of COVID-19, which caused delays and reduced the number of in-person Census takers knocking on people’s doors.
Due to these delays, the Census Bureau set the cutoff date for citizens to respond for Oct. 31, several months later than was originally planned. More recently, the Census changed the deadline to Sept. 30. After an outcry from civil rights groups and local governments, Northern California U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh issued a temporary restraining order on the bureau, requesting it to continue counting through October.
County Administrator Christian Goodwin said Tuesday that Census staff will make appearances at the refuse and recycling centers in the coming days to make sure citizens are aware of the ongoing count. Reminders to respond to the Census will also be sent with county tax bills, scheduled to be delivered in the next week.
To fill out the Census form online, go to census.gov.