NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - The team at the NC Counts Coalition is operating under the assumption the end of the 2020 Census effort could come at any time, so they are pushing to get everyone counted as soon as possible.
“At this point, our partners are not using a date. I’ve told everyone just say, you know, there’s still time to count, but time is running out...because we really don’t know when this operation is going to end,” said executive director Stacey Carless.
The deadline for self-responses and for U.S. Census Bureau workers to collect information was originally pulled back to Sept. 30, but a court ruling last week told the agency to extend it.
However, news agencies in Washington, D.C. obtained emails that showed the Bureau plans to shut down information collection on Monday, Oct. 5.
Carless said the back and forth on the deadline has made last-minute efforts to get people counted difficult to organize.
But what’s at stake hasn’t changed—for every single person North Carolina fails to count, the state could miss out on $18,000 over the next decade, according to the most recent estimates.
“That is $18,000, that can be allocated to our state, for our highway and transportation system, for healthcare, for education, for small business loans of rural North Carolina, for hospitals, for school lunch, for school breakfasts, for federal Pell Grants for college students,” Carless said. “So your count actually determines the fate and the well being of our communities for the next 10 years.”
As of Sept. 29, North Carolina was at 97.3% of its known households being counted, putting the state in 46th position compared with the rest of the nation.
In the Cape Fear region, the numbers are likely similar, as the self-response rate has mirrored the state average, but in some communities it is difficult to know.
In areas with large numbers of vacation homes, such as Brunswick County’s beach towns, the number of housing units may not accurately reflect the number of residents, as some homes may be a second residence for someone who lives permanently somewhere else in the state or country.
“The census is asking, ‘Where was your primary residence—where were you living as of April 1, 2020?’” said Brunswick County Public Information Officer Meagan Kascsak. “So we know that there are a lot of people who don’t...who might own a home in Brunswick County, but this might not be their primary residence.”
Still, she said the importance of the census is hard to overstate.
“It comes down a lot to federal funding of programs that so many of our residents use in their day-to-day lives," she said, "things like the SNAP program, Medicaid and Medicare. Think about when we have a disaster situation in our community...how does FEMA know how many people are in our area being affected so that they know what kind of supplies to bring in the event of some kind of natural disaster like a hurricane?”
She too suggested anyone who hasn’t responded to the 2020 Census to do so as soon as possible, before it’s too late.