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Commission urges citizens to complete 2020 Census

PARKERSBURG — Officials are urging people to complete their 2020 Census by the end of the month.

Pam Brust, chairwoman of Wood County’s Complete Count Committee, appeared before the Wood County Commission on Monday to discuss ongoing Census efforts locally.

Brust said legal action has been taken in parts of the country and where as Census officials believed they had until the end of October to complete the count, many are now being told by federal officials that count will end at the end of September.

“A temporary restraining order has been issued by a U.S. District Court Judge after several advocacy groups filed an emergency request as part of a federal lawsuit,” Brust said.

“The order is expected to remain in effect until a hearing is held Sept. 17 on the plaintiffs’ request for a court order that would require counting to continue through the end of October.

“The advocacy groups who filed the court action have expressed concern the latest Administration order to end the counting portion of the Census on Sept. 30 instead of Oct. 31 will lead to an inaccurate count.”

Their Census representatives are telling local officials they have been informed their jobs will end on Sept. 25 and the Bureau will continue to monitor any on-going litigation, she said.

As the coronavirus swept through the nation this past spring, the bureau had to postpone key parts of its population count until August, Brust said.

“The Administration said at the time that it would extend the deadline for completing the count to Oct. 31 to make up for that delay, and move the date for delivering population totals to the White House to April 2021, from its then Dec. 31, 2020 deadline,” she said.

“But as census outreach prepared to resume last month, the administration reversed course, ordering the count wrapped up by Sept. 30, and delivery of totals by Dec. 31 (the original deadline).”

In the meantime, Census workers across the state who have been going door to door are reporting nearly complete coverage of the non-response households in West Virginia.

“As of Sept. 10 West Virginia’s response rate was 55.8 percent; Wood County was at 70 percent; Parkersburg, 65.5 percent; Vienna, 78.1 percent; Williamstown, 75.3 percent, and North Hills, 83.9 percent,” Brust said.

She said Wood County was second in the state in responses, behind Jefferson County.

As of Sept. 9, the Census operation to count people living in transitory locations such as campgrounds, and hotels/motels was underway. This will continue until Sept. 28.

Earlier this month, the Census Bureau announced it was sending an additional paper questionnaire to more than 16.2 million households in low-responding census tracts.

About 84.9 percent of those households have completed the 2020 Census with 65.2 percent self-responding online, by phone or by mail, Brust said.

A final mailing is expecting to be arriving at non-responding people’s homes by Sept. 15.

This mailing is the last in a series of reminders the Census Bureau has mailed to non-responding households since mid-March urging them to respond, Brust said.

“The Census Bureau and I are is strongly encouraging households that have not yet responded to the census to complete their questionnaire by Sept. 30, despite the court action,” she said.

People can go online at 2020census.gov or call by phone at 844-330-2020 to fill out the Census.

Brust said if people have already fill out their Census, but get a reminder by mail, she is advising them to disregard the new notice as things may have crossed in the mail and other factors.

“Census takers are now going to households who have not responded in order to collect responses,” she said.

If they are visited, but have already filled one out they are advised to tell the person they already filled it out and should have received a confirmation.

The U.S. Constitution mandates a census of the population every 10 years. The goal of the 2020 Census is to count everyone who lives in the United States on April 1, 2020 (Census Day). Census statistics are used to determine the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives and inform how billions of dollars in federal funds will be allocated by state, local and federal lawmakers annually for the next 10 years, Brust said.

Currently the Census Bureau is moving forward on the belief the count will end on Sept. 30, despite the court action, she said.

“I just want everyone in the county to know they need to get it in by the 30th of this month (September),” Brust said. “We had been told it was Oct. 31 and many people believed they still had time.

“We are out of time.”

Commission President Blair Couch said people now need to treat the Census count with a sense of urgency.

Census officials have set up access points in the area during specific times and times to reach more people in under-responding areas. They have had locations in downtown Parkersburg and at local grocery stores.

“The idea is you can come to them,” Brust said. “They have a laptop and will help you fill everything out.

“We have done it a few times and it seems to have worked out.”

The idea is to be at a place where people go and have access to parking.

Additional events are being planned and will be announced when the time comes, Brust said.

Census takers can be identified by a valid government ID badge with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date on the badge. Census takers are also adhering to social distancing and health recommendations in related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All indications seem to point that operations will probably conclude at the end of September, Brust said.

Commissioner Bob Tebay said he knows these stations have been able to count people who had not filled out their census forms yet.

Brust said she has regularly received calls from people asking about the Census and others who had not gotten the forms and what they needed to do to fill it out.

Wood County was already doing better than it did during the last Census in 2010.

“We have already succeeded our 2010 turnout,” Brust said. “I would like to see it higher.

“Hopefully, we will be able to get some more people in and do even better.”

For more information, visit 2020census.gov. There are also updates available on the county website: www.woodcountywv.com on the county commission page.

Contact Brett Dunlap at bdunlap@newsandsentinel.com

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