‘Money and power’ is what the census is about, advocate says in Macon

Jessica Walden is part of an effort to make sure everyone in Bibb County is counted in the United States 2020 Census, and she puts it simply when explaining why that is important.

“Money and power,” she said in describing why the census matters to about 40 people attending a town hall on the issue Thursday.

The money is an estimated $655 billion in federal funds that are distributed based on census data. That includes school funding, food stamps, healthcare, transportation and many other services.

“So many parts of our lives and children’s lives are determined with census data,” Walden said.

The power relates to how census data is used to determine political districts and representation. Georgia gained a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as a result of the the last census, Walden noted, where most states did not.

Walden is the Census Bureau’s community partnership specialist for the upcoming count.

She explained that next year, for the first time, the census will be done online. Starting in March every home will get a post card directing them to a website to fill out the census form, which asks 10 questions. People also have the option of answering the census by phone.

Anyone who doesn’t respond would then get a census form in the mail to fill out and return. If they still don’t respond they will get a visit from a census taker.

In 2010, 76 percent of Bibb residents responded by mail.

Even with census takers going to homes, getting an accurate count has challenges. Walden said Bibb County has significant hard-to-count populations, including the homeless, undocumented immigrants and those living in poverty. Even college students, she said, can be difficult to count.

She also said addressing people’s concerns about confidentiality is a major challenge. Walden said census workers can be convicted of a crime if they divulge census data of a specific household. That data can be released only after 74 years for the purpose of historical research.

The forum was put on by Georgia Women (And Those Who Stand With Us) and the League of Women Voters.

About the Census

The Census is done every 10 years, as is mandated by the Constitution. Anybody living in the United States, the five U.S. territories or the District of Columbia are required by law to fill out the census forms.

Wayne Crenshaw has worked as a journalist since 1990 and has been a reporter for The Telegraph since 2002. He holds a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Georgia College and is a resident of Warner Robins.