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Census specialist asks for city’s aid to get everyone counted

By Liz Moomey

liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The U.S. Census Bureau has a goal — to count everyone — partnership specialist Peter Sabo told the city council Tuesday.

Sabo said the 2020 Census is important because it impacts political representation and money distributed to state and local governments. The money goes where the response is, not where the need is, he said.

“You can have all the need in the world, but if you can’t demonstrate the need through the response of the census, then you’re not going to get the money,” Sabo said.

He asked the Salisbury City Council for its help, as trusted voices of the community, to spread the word, educate residents and encourage them to participate.

A reason people don’t respond to the census is because they distrust the government, he said. Sabo said everyone at the U.S. Census Bureau takes a lifelong oath ensuring they will protect people’s personal information. No personal information is released to the public or another government agency.

“As soon as people respond, their information is taken offline,” Sabo said. “Their personal information is stripped away and it’s all brought together as statistical data.”

Sabo said more than $675 billion per year is distributed to state and local governments. Rowan County received $7.9 million of that funding for community action agencies.

The numbers also impact community support, education, employment, entrepreneurship, environment, family services, food assistance, health care, infrastructure and public safety.

“This is the one chance we get to shape our future for the next 10 years,” Sabo said. “Everybody I’m sure is focused on the election. That’s four years. This impacts us for the next 10 years.

“We do not get another chance to change these numbers, how that money is distributed, how our political representation is distributed for the next 10 years,” he continued. “We have to get it right this time or we just wait.”

The response rate for North Carolina in 2010 was 78%. Gov. Roy Cooper has set a goal of 83% self-response rate. 

In 2010, children under 5 were the most undercounted group, he said. Sabo said the Census wants to be sure to reach out to veterans and people who are homeless to be counted.

“Those who are most vulnerable are ones we need to be sure and count, because they need all the services possible,” Sabo said.

The U.S. Census Bureau will begin sending out mailers on March 12. People can respond by telephone, internet or a paper questionnaire. As soon as the person responds, they will be removed from a list to which multiple mailers would be sent. For those that don’t respond, a representative will come to their home to try to gather the needed information.

Sabo said the most accurate information comes when people self-respond.

Salisbury Communications Director Linda McElroy said the city will aid the 2020 Census counting by providing computers at city buildings for people to use to respond. The city also plans to send out a RoCo alert on April 1, which is Census Day.

In other business from Tuesday night’s meeting:

• The city council agreed to change the name of the Greenway Committee to Greenway, Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee. It also approved an increase in the number of members, from nine to 11.

• The council gave permission for construction workers to park in front of the future Barnhardt Jewelers, at 112-114 E. Innes St., during the weekday and during work hours until May. Owners requested until August for the right-of-way permit.

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