(Feb. 14, 2020) The Complete Count Committee continues to prepare for the U.S. Census, as the nation’s decennial headcount is less than a month away, on March 12. 

Kelly Henry, technical services division manager and coordinator of the committee, said the committee is looking through each municipality’s calendar of events and deciding which events will be the best locations for a census informational booth. 

Kelly

Kelly Henry

Worcester County formed the Complete Count Committee in October to attempt to reach 100 percent participation. The committee consists of individuals affiliated with community organizations such as education, government, business and media. 

Henry said this educational push is primarily to emphasize that the census is vitally important to fill out – and it’s safe. 

“All of your monies that you’d be getting from the federal government for services, for health care, for education, for roads, that’s all based on number count,” Henry said. 

For every person not counted, state and local jurisdictions lose a total of $18,250 in federal funds over the next 10 years. Worcester County had the lowest response out of all Maryland counties. 

Henry borrowed an example from the health department – if a population needs a vaccine, they’ll get a number of vaccines based on the population count. If that’s incorrect, there could be people that go unvaccinated. 

“A lot of times, the most undercounted are those less than 5 and those over 65,” Henry said. “Those are the ones that need a lot of the services. We hope that through the health department, human services and board of education, we can reach those people.” 

These agencies, as well as the local libraries, will work to connect people who don’t have reliable internet access to the census, since this is the first year the census will be available online. The committee will also distribute flyers through county paystubs and to students through the board of education. 

Henry said that more residents will receive paper copies of the census than the committee had originally thought. Everyone will receive a notification in the mail with an identification number to connect them to their census form. The address will continue to receive notifications, and if by the fourth notification they haven’t filled the census out either by phone or online, they will receive a paper copy. 

“Now because of different areas in the county not having internet service or not having other devices available to them, they’re going to send out more paper copies initially,” Henry said. “Even if I’m in an area that does have internet service and I, for some reason, do not fill it out online, I eventually will get a copy, but there’s just going to be more of an area that gets paper copies and that’s due to the lack of internet access.” 

Rural areas will be more likely to initially receive a paper copy. Henry added that those whose only address is a post office box will not receive a census survey. Each county will send those addresses instructions to fill out the survey without an identification number.

The other focus for the committee is reassuring those who might not feel safe working and sharing information with the government. 

“People who may be concerned that it may be shared with ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], it’s not going to be shared with ICE,” Henry said. “It’s not going to be shared with the sheriff’s office. It’s not going to be shared with the zoning department or anybody else. It’s only used for statistical data by the U.S. Census.” 

She added that there are only nine questions regarding name, age, gender and how many people live in the household. 

Although census will go live in the second week of March, the federal government recognizes April 1 as U.S. Census Day. The deadline to fill out the survey is July 31. 

Henry said anyone who needs assistance can go to any of the agencies involved with the census for help. 

“Don’t not fill it out because you’re not familiar with how to work a computer or you don’t have a smart phone,” Henry said. “If you need assistance, please seek assistance.

Elizabeth covers Worcester County issues for Ocean City Today. In 2018, she graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa with a bachelor of arts. After graduation, Elizabeth spent a year with Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Wilmington, Delaware.

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