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One month left for a full census count

By Lee Hayes Byron and Kevin O’Horan
UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County

We’ve reached the last days to complete the 2020 Census, as the deadline has shifted to Sept. 30. That is one month sooner than a previously announced plan to extend the national count through Oct. 31 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, it is important that everyone take time to ensure they have submitted their response. Beyond that, please reach out to others to ensure everyone you know has done so. No one should be left out of this vital, once-a-decade opportunity to be counted.

Some expressed discomfort at completing the census, citing concerns data security and the time it could take. The Patterson Foundation, a local charitable organization, dispelled those thoughts in a recent blog post, explaining that data confidentiality is protected by federal law and completing the census usually takes less than five minutes. The online and phone methods of response also offer support in multiple languages.

Despite the secure, simple process and the importance of the information, less than three quarters of households have completed the census, so far. Nationally, just 64.9 percent of households have responded. That’s slightly better than Sarasota County’s response rate of 63.8 percent, which itself outpaces the Florida response rate of just 61.6 percent.

That’s not enough, at any level. Every person needs to be counted to have accurate data on our nation’s and our community’s populations. Officials and policy-makers use the data to determine congressional representation and funding allocation in areas such as public education, healthcare, disaster response, infrastructure, and housing. The census even impacts Extension services around the nation, including agriculture research and critical funding for nutrition education for low-income families.

There is still time, though, to ramp up our community’s response. 2020 Census graphic from Sarasota County GovernmentIf you have not responded, complete your census online at my2020census.gov before the end of this month. If you have completed yours, please help make sure all your family and friends have done so, as well. Reach out to your neighbors, those in your faith community or civic group, your tennis or golf partners, and your work colleagues to remind them. Ask local non-profits what you can do to help ensure their low-income clients have completed the census. This can all be done by phone, text, or email to maintain safe social distancing.

Here’s how you can participate in the 2020 Census, or encourage others to do so:

  • This census will be the first to request that all responses be entered online. Complete your form at my2020census.gov.
  • Use your computer, tablet or smartphone to connect to my2020census.gov (free Wi-Fi access available at Sarasota County public libraries, even from the parking lot).
  • If you can’t respond online, call toll-free to 800-923-8282 for help completing the census or to request a traditional form.

To see how your community’s response rate compares to others, you can visit the Census Bureau’s online mapping tool at www.2020census.gov/en/response-rates.html. Within Sarasota County, residents in the City of North Port still lead the way with nearly 3 in 4 households having responded.

The importance of this census cannot be overstated. Please help us spread the word and encourage everyone in our community to get counted.

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