The census is coming to town

Published 10:39 pm Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Polk approves forming committee to ensure higher response

COLUMBUS—The U.S. Census will be taken in 2020 and Polk County is forming a committee to help increase the response. 

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday and heard from Polk County Planner Cathy Ruth, who gave a presentation on the U.S. Census, which will be taken next year. The census, taken every 10 years, will be effective April 1, 2020. 

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Ruth said during the 2010 census, 27 percent of Polk County’s population did not participate, with Polk County being the lowest in our region. During the 2000 census, 32 percent of Polk County residents did not participate. 

The committee to be formed, called a Complete Count Committee, will help get the information out to residents in hopes of increasing participation. 

The U.S. Census has been conducted every 10 years since 1790 as required by the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 2. In 1790 there were 3.9 million U.S. residents. In 2010, there were 308 million U.S. residents. 

The census is a few questions, Ruth saying it is safe and protected. She said the census does not ask for a full social security number, never asks for money or a donation, never sends requests on behalf of a political party and never asks for PIN codes, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts. 

Data from the census is used in many ways, including forecasting future transportation needs; determining areas eligible for housing assistance and rehabilitation loans; assisting tribal, federal, state and local governments in planning and implementing programs and services in education, healthcare, transportation, social services and emergency response and designing facilities for people with disabilities, the elderly and children. 

Next year’s census will eliminate paper and incorporating the use of handheld data collection devices. 

Ruth said once the committee is formed, they will begin talking to the towns, local nonprofits and the library and will also have a website for people to ask questions. 

Commissioner Chair Tommy Melton asked why Polk County had such low participation in recent years. Ruth said she does not know. County Manager Marche Pittman said in looking at the state averages, Polk County is not that off. 

Ruth said the governor wants an 80 percent response next year. 

“So Polk County’s population of 20,500 is no where close,” Melton said. “That’s 5,400 to 5,500 people.” 

Canvassing for the U.S. Census has already begun. In mid-March 2020 individual housing units will be invited to respond, with April 1, 2020 being census day. People should respond where they live on April 1, 2020. In May 2020 there will be a non-response follow-up and on Dec. 31, 2020, the counts will be delivered to the U.S. President. 

Anyone who wants to work for the census can visit or call 1-855-JOB-2020.