LIMA — Allen County residents have less than two months to reach an 80% census completion goal set by the Lima/Allen County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee or risk losing millions of dollars in potential federal spending.
As of Wednesday, 68.5% of Allen County residents have filled out either the online form or submitted their information via telephone or mail. To capture the data from the remaining 31.5%, census workers have begun knocking on doors this week.
“We have less than 60 days to complete our goal,” Complete Count Committee Member Sharetta Smith said.
The final deadline to fill out the census is currently Sept. 30, after the Oct. 31 deadline was shifted by the White House.
While filling out the census may seem more like a bureaucratic chore, Smith emphasized the importance of the constitutionally-mandated count.
Without clear data, federal programs often rely on less accurate estimations, which could under-count how many people actually live within the county. The result is when the federal government sets its allocation levels for major programs — such as Community Development Block Grant dollars — the county could lose out any federal funding handed out until the next census count.
Census data also informs decisions made by private interests, such as site selection and market-based decisions.
With that said, a number of census tracts throughout the county have already hit their 80% goal, but a number of neighborhoods — most of them located within the City of Lima — have yet to hit the 50% mark.
The area of the county with the highest response rate, 82.7%, is located in the middle of Shawnee Township. The area with the lowest response rate, 43%, is located just southeast of downtown Lima.
Some of the census rates of the lowest-responding areas of the county are especially alarming due to their exceptionally low Internet response rates under 20%. Prior to the beginning of the 2020 Census, which is the first with a major online component, census organizers had recognized that the need to spend additional resources to capture hard-to-reach populations.
The coronavirus pandemic may have exacerbated those issues, which is why the first August deadline had been shifted to the end of October. An even tighter time frame may leave those populations under-counted.
In comparison to Allen County’s 68.5% response rate, Auglaize County’s response rate is currently 75.5%, and Putnam County’s is 72.5%.
To help increase response rates throughout the region, Smith offered a few tips to get the word out. In order to take advantage of personal networks, she said those concerned about the census can text or call those in their contact lists to encourage more participation. Social media posts could also be utilized to get the word out.
The Complete Count committee is also offering both pamphlets and yard signs to increase advertising for anyone interested. Smith said those who wish to request such materials can do so by reaching out to her at 419-998-5596 or email@example.com.
Finally, Smith encouraged private human resource directors to take initiative and send out census reminders to their employees in an effort to increase the response.
“The count matters for our community. I can’t stress that enough,” Smith said. “Everything we do in the community is tied to census numbers.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.