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Rowan County leaders urge residents to participate in census

By Liz Moomey
liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — April 1 is Census Day, and Rowan County leaders are encouraging residents to make sure they participate.

So far, an invitation to respond online to the 2020 Census or fill out a paper questionnaire have been sent to residences along with a reminder letter. Households will also receive a reminder postcard before Friday. People can fill out the census at my2020census.gov, by calling 844-330-2020 or by returning the mailed paper questionnaire.

Invitations were sent out starting March 12, and the self response rate stands at 28% in Rowan County. The North Carolina self-response rate is 27.7% as of Friday morning.

The 2020 Census asks:

• How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2020?

• Were there any additional people staying here on April 1, 2020, that you did not include in Question 1?

• Is this a house, apartment or mobile home?

• What is your telephone number?

• Name, sex, age and date of birth of each person living there.

• Are they of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin?

• What is the person’s race?

Ed Muire, Rowan County planning director, said the county has been preparing to get the word out about the census since mid-2019. He said the census numbers impact everyone, particularly the school system, social services, library, transportation and road networks — “a host of things that are tied federal government funding that follows population.”

“The money quite often doesn’t follow the need but it follows the population,” Muire said. “It’s very important for us to have an accurate count.”

Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander said in a video statement that residents who want to make a difference should participate.

“An accurate count informs how billions of dollars in federal funding gets distributed annually for things like fire departments, mental health services, employment and training programs, prevention and treatment of substance abuse and hundreds of other critical services and programs right here in our community that make a difference in our everyday lives,” Alexander said.

She said the count matters and impact on the community will be felt for years.

The 2020 Census will not ask if anyone in a household is a U.S. citizen and is supposed to count everyone living in the country, including non-citizens. The answers will not be shared with law enforcement and answers can’t be used to impact your eligibility for government benefits. The Census Bureau also won’t ask for a Social Security number, money or donations, anything on behalf of a political party or your bank or credit card account numbers.

“The results are kept confidential for 72 years and it benefits us locally and at the state level from a funding perspective,” Muire said.

Peter Sabo, partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, said those who have not received an invitation or an ID number can log onto 2020Census.gov and complete the process online. They also can call 1-844-330-2020 and complete it over the phone by using a mailing address to complete the census without a Census ID number.

Muire said the Rowan County census committee’s initial concern was it would only be available to fill out by using the internet, even though some residents do not have access.

“As the process and the delivery of information arrived from the census, they began to modify their approach and they were saying in some of these areas where we have had lower response or lower initial responses in these census tracts they were going to mail out the paper form first,” Muire said.

The Rowan County’s and North Carolina’s response rate in 2010 for the census was 76%. In 2000, the county’s response rate was 73% compared with 69% statewide. The governor’s office established a 2020 goal of 82% response rate.

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