BURTON — With the Trump administration asking for the 2020 Census to wrap up a month earlier than expected, the push is on try and get every resident to return their responses by Sept. 31.
Members of the Burton City Council and Mayor Duane Haskins took to the streets this week on the city’s south end to try and get more residents to return their completed Census forms to the U.S. government.
The city is in the midst of a year-long campaign to make residents aware of the Census and the importance of completing and returning the documents so every person in the city is counted. The city stands to gain millions of the dollars in federal money for an accurate count, with as much as $2,100 per person a year available to Burton.
In the 2010 Census, the city missed a 30,000-population count by one person, which ended up costing Burton millions in government money.
Haskins told the council Monday there was good news to report: A .2 percent increase in self-responses for the Census, partly attributed to an effort where city council members contributed their own cash to buy gift certificates for a raffle where you had to turn in your completed Census to qualify for the drawing.
“We did do the mail-out for all that stuff and we are getting some response back on it, so that will help a little bit,” said Haskins. “I’m not sure how the actual Census workers are going to be able to accomplish their feat going door to door, so if anyone is willing, I’m going to try and get out there and do some knocking myself for the Census purpose. Whether we try to get to all the doors, or just get to some of the people we know, just to reassure they did get it done.”
Haskins said his personal door-to-door effort would be on the south end area, where he hoped to bring up the numbers just a little bit.
He said the .2 percent increase over self-responses from 2010 is good news, but he admits there’s still a lot of work to do.
“Just remember, in 2010, that self-response rate wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t enough to get us over the hump,” said Council President Steve Heffner. “So, we can’t let our guard down now. We’ve got to keep going.”
Councilman Vaughn Smith, who has spearheaded the 2020 Census effort for the city council, said the Census Bureau has been slowed by the loss of half the people they were going to send to training who quit because of COVID-19.
Census-takers, also known as enumerators, are also very frustrated, said Smith, because people are scared to talk to them when they go door-to-door.
“So between that and having to wear a mask – its hot out and they have to keep these masks on – my concern is we are ahead of where we were in 2010, where people respond themselves,” said Smith. “But the enumerators haven’t been able to get a hard figure on what percentage they’ve added to the count over 2010. We’re going to exceed what we were in 2010…but we’re not sure what the enumerators are going to do, that’s the wild card there.”
Besides knocking on doors, the city will continue to send reminders to the public where possible, continuing to rally around the Census and try to get everyone to respond.
“Thirty thousand was our goal in 2010, but I think we’re going to do better,” said Smith. “Everybody is pulling together; I think we’re going to do better than that. I commend everyone for what they’ve done – and if know someone who hasn’t completed theirs, urge them to do so.”
Councilman Danny Wells said everyone he talks to wants to see the city exceed the 2010 numbers, but he blames the lack of response on the trying times right now with COVID-19.
“We need that money, it’s good for all of us,” said Wells. “With everything happening everyone is just scared to do anything.”
Heffner remained optimistic, saying the city stands to gain more than what was on the table in 2010.
“Once we get over that 30,000 (population) mark, we’ll make more than $1,800 per person,” said Heffner. “It will jump up to like $2,100 – it’s a plus for us. In 2010 we did nothing; the ball was dropped, and we paid the price for it for 10 years.”
Details: Visit census.gov or call Smith at 810-516-9614.