By Jim Buchanan
The on-again, off-again census count in Jackson County and across the nation is on again.
But today (Thursday) is the final day.
By law the census is held every 10 years to count the number of people in the country, a count used to distribute federal funding and allocate representatives in Congress among the states.
Always a herculean task, this year’s census became much more complicated when the COVID-19 pandemic began raging.
The original deadline for the census was July 31.
After determining the impact of the pandemic on the country, the deadline was extended to Oct. 31. This summer, the Trump administration changed that deadline to Sept. 30, sparking numerous lawsuits.
A suit filed by the National Urban League designed to create an injunction against the new deadline was granted by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California.
Under that ruling the Census Bureau was to continue door knocking until the end of the month in an effort to count those who have yet to fill out their census form.
The Trump administration filed an emergency application to the Supreme Court to halt the count.
On Tuesday the high court granted the administration’s request.
The Census Bureau says internet self-response will now be available across the nation until 11:59 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time (HST), (6 a.m. Friday Eastern Daylight Time).
Paper responses must be postmarked today. Phone responses may be made through today.
The self-response rate for the census in Jackson continues to trail the state and nation, with 36.7 percent of county residents self-responding compared to the state average of 63.2 percent.
The national average is 66.8 percent.
On Aug. 11, census workers began door-to-door surveys of all non-responding addresses.
The Non-Response Follow-Ups are not broken down by county or municipal level but by the seven Area Census Offices across the state. Jackson falls into the Asheville NRFU, which is reporting a 99 percent completion of its workload.
Billions in funding for the state over the next decade is at stake.
“The 2020 Census is North Carolina’s opportunity to bring back federal tax dollars to communities for critical infrastructure, planning and services,” said N.C. Department of Administration Secretary and N.C. Complete Count Commission Chair Machelle Sanders. “Undercounting North Carolina’s residents represents real dollars lost, real community programs underfunded, and real people whose needs are going underserved or unserved.”
Locally, census allocation dollars go to help fund schools and education, a variety of food programs, infrastructure projects, Medicare, Medicaid, emergency services, senior services and more.
To complete the census online go to my2020census.gov.
By phone, call 844-330-2020 for English or 844-468-2020 for Spanish.