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Census expert: With thousands uncounted, Rowan County could lose out on millions in funding

By Shavonne Potts

shavonne.potts@salisburypost.com

EAST SPENCER — If the estimated 35% of Rowan Countians did not respond to the 2020 Census by Thursday’s moved-up deadline, it means the county could lose out on $85 million in federal funding, says Governor’s Census liasion Bob Coats.

In Rowan County, roughly 65.6% of citizens have responded, which translates to 18,000 households or 46,734 people who have not been counted by Census workers or did not self-respond. Coats, who works out of the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management in Raleigh, said the census-derived funding helps pay for healthcare, schools, infrastructures like roads, highways and sewer.

“If those people were missed, that’s $85 million in federal funding that Rowan County is at risk of not receiving,” he said.

Under counted or inaccurate census numbers depict a distorted picture of communities and can lead to North Carolina missing out on needed resources. The governor’s office established the goal of an 82% response rate for the 2020 census. As of late Thursday, 63.3% of North Carolinians had self-responded.

“If you’re not counted, it’s your tax dollars that go to some other community, and N.C. is the fourth fastest-growing state in the nation,” Coats said.

It means towns like East Spencer, which has the lowest participation rate of any other Rowan County town, won’t get a bigger piece of the pie when it comes to federal dollars.

East Spencer Mayor Barbara Mallett said Thursday she’s devastated that the town won’t get two more weeks, as previously planned, to reach more citizens. Census postcards arrived at homes in March, but operations were halted because of the coronavirus pandemic. In May census takers went door-to-door to reach unresponsive homes. The Census Bureau first extended the deadline to be counted to Oct. 31, then cut it to Sept. 30. A federal judge ruled in September that the national count could continue through Oct. 31. But the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the Supreme Court could end the count this week.

Mallett cited Powell Bill funds, intended for road projects, as an example of money that could be decreased. Mallett said this year the town received $49,000 across two allocations. Those allocations, which are based on population, could drop to $22,000.

If Census numbers drop, the money drops, she said.

East Spencer has mobilized community members and institutions to try and improve their Census count. In June, volunteers with the Shady Grove Baptist Church men’s ministry along with town board members and others, placed flyers on doors in both English and Spanish to promote the census. Mallett said during the town’s Sept. 26 community day event a Census Bureau representative was able to get 40 people to complete the census. But the town was hoping to make a final push in October’s last couple weeks.

“From that activity, I was hoping we would do another push by the deadline,” Mallett said. “It’s devastating to the town of East Spencer anytime we are not able to present information that would sustain our growth.”

Response rates among Rowan County municipalities as of Oct. 15 are:

• China Grove — 66.8%
• East Spencer — 44.1%
• Faith — 69.9%
• Granite — 65.9%
• Kannapolis — 51.3%
• Landis — 68.1%
• Salisbury — 65.9%
• Rockwell — 65.8%
• Spencer — 69.5%
• Rowan County — 65.5%

In the 2010 census, Rowan County and North Carolina had a 76% response rate.

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