Kemp urges Georgians to ‘do the right thing’ and fill out census

Gov. Brian Kemp wears a mask promoting the 2020 census Thursday during a press conference where he urged Georgians to participate in the headcount.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Gov. Brian Kemp wears a mask promoting the 2020 census Thursday during a press conference where he urged Georgians to participate in the headcount. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

‘Literally, the stakes could not be higher,’ governor says

Gov. Brian Kemp urged Georgians on Thursday to “do the right thing” and fill out the 2020 census, which helps determine political boundaries and shapes how roughly $1.5 trillion in federal funding is doled out to the states.

Georgia is among the worst in the nation for its percentage of households tallied in the once-a-decade headcount, and organizers are struggling this year to persuade hard-to-reach populations to participate during the pandemic.

“It is not too late to fill out the census. And Georgians' response will directly affect representation and funding over the next decade,” said Kemp, who added: “Literally, the stakes could not be higher.”

The latest U.S. census data shows 93.1% of households in the state have been counted. That reflects 61.9% of households that responded on their own plus an additional 31.2% counted by census takers going door to door.

There’s plenty at stake. The U.S. House Oversight and Reform Committee recently reported that Georgia could lose nearly $75 million in annual federal funding for health care, job training and education if there is an undercount of just 1%.

ExploreGeorgians can submit their responses here online
ExploreGeorgia tied at second to last in the nation for its 2020 Census response rate

The coronavirus pandemic has complicated the count. The outbreak forced the U.S. Census Bureau to temporarily suspend its field work, and officials say confusion about deadlines has hampered progress. The deadline for in-person counting is now set at Sept. 30, a month ahead of schedule.

“The biggest thing I can tell people now is respond today,” said Anna Miller, the co-chairwoman of the state’s Complete Count committee. “Assume nothing is going to be extended. There’s general confusion about what it is, when to do it, how to do it, and how is it actually going to help me.”

A coalition of advocacy groups have gone to court to seek an extension, warning that a rushed process could result in a massive undercount in the nation’s minority communities. A federal judge in California is expected to issue her order soon.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has warned that the Trump administration’s plans were political, aimed at shifting resources away from left-leaning communities. State officials, meanwhile, say they’ve held dozens of events and launched digital and in-person efforts to reach hard-to-count areas.

“It takes less than 10 minutes to effect real, tangible change for your community,” Miller said. “So text 10 of your friends and ask them if they filled it out. It’s a once-in-a-decade chance to affect your roads, your schools, your health care.”

How to fill out the census:

It typically takes less than 10 minutes to complete the census form online. Participants may fill the survey out online, by phone or by mail. The questions on the 2020 census ask how many people live in the residence; if the home is rented, owned, or other; and a phone number to contact you only in the case of official Census Bureau business. If you don’t complete your form, Census Bureau employees may visit your home up to six times to attempt to help you complete the count. They’ll have identification to ensure residents know they’re with the Census Bureau, and their questions will pertain only to the tally. For more information or for answers to frequently asked questions, visit www.2020census.gov.

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