Another decade, another Census

Published 9:38 am Wednesday, June 12, 2019


RCNH News Intern

WINTON – It’s nearing the end of another decade, which means it’s almost time for the Census. During the Hertford County Commissioner’s meeting here last week, Kenneth Wilkins presented the importance of the county having an accurate count next year.

Wilkins is a representative of the southeast region of the U.S. Census Bureau, which consists of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

With North Carolina’s increase in population, there’s a possibility that the state and Hertford County could benefit from ensuring every person is counted.

“The Census is about power and money,” Wilkins told the board.

The Census taken every 10 years by the government to determine population. This information is used to determine how funds will be allocated to states for government functions and the number of congressional seats each state will receive.

There are 435 seats in Congress and North Carolina currently has 13. North Carolina’s population has increased, which indicates a strong possibility of gaining another seat. This can only occur if there is a good effort in counting for the 2020 Census, according to Wilkins.

To ensure Hertford County is diligent in its Census count efforts, he proposed the formation of a Complete Count Committee.

“These are committees made up of the trusted voices, which is why we start at the county level with the County Commissioners,” he said. “These are the folks who walk into a room, people gravitate towards them, people know who they are, people approach them for their opinions and advice.”

The U.S. Bureau will provide training and assistance, but the committee members will develop the plan for the county’s Census efforts based on their assessment of the county’s needs.

In 2000, North Carolina’s response rate to the U.S. Census was 62%. It increased to 75% in 2010.

“The government would like to see at least 80% from everywhere in the state, so we’ve got some work to do,” Wilkins said. “But we’re going in the right direction.”

Almost five percent of children in the U.S. weren’t counted in the 2010 Census, an estimated one million children. Children are among the hard count population, including members of non-English speaking households, citizens of rural areas, those experiencing homelessness and low-income citizens.

“There are certain challenges in every community,” Wilkins said, “but the folks in the community know what’s best and the best way to communicate with the citizens.”

With changing technology, the Census is adopting new ways to allow citizens to report. For the first time, citizens will be able to respond online using a computer, tablet or smartphone. The option to respond by mail or telephone will still be available.

“$675 billion will be returned to the state each year for the next 10 years,” Wilkins said. “We want to make sure that North Carolina and Hertford County receives their fair share of the funding. Responding to the census helps communities receive the funding they need.”

The Commissioners approved Wilkins’ proposal for the board to pass a resolution endorsing the 2020 Census. According to County Manager Loria Williams, the Complete Count Committee has been created and they “just need to get them up and running.”

Wilkins said that he was unsure of where the closest Census office will be established at this time, but a decision would be made between July and August of this year.

The 2020 Census will begin on April 1 of next year. Incorporating a Complete Count Committee in Hertford County would put a familiar face to the people collecting Census information.