North end, base lags in census responses

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With some areas of Camden falling behind state and national self-response rates for the 2020 Census, local committee members are looking for ways to reach citizens and helping them participate. As of June 3, online census data shows only about 30% of Woodbine residents have responded to the...

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With some areas of Camden falling behind state and national self-response rates for the 2020 Census, local committee members are looking for ways to reach citizens and helping them participate.

As of June 3, online census data shows only about 30% of Woodbine residents have responded to the questionnaire, compared to the state average of 56.7% and national average of 60.5%. The census tracts that include Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base (40.7%) and the north end of the county (44.09%) are also well below the county average of 57.2%.

Response rates for Kingsland and St. Marys currently stand at 62.4% and 63.3%, respectively. 

Increasing access

Georgia residents have received at least four mailings related to the census, but for the first time, responses are being recorded online. Enumerators from the Census Bureau will visit all nonresponsive households this summer to obtain responses. Due to concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic, it is encouraged that citizens respond at www.my2020census.gov, on paper, or by phone (844-330-2020) so those personnel must visit fewer households.  

The pandemic also has affected the strategies that the local Complete Count Committee had to address low self-response rates, according to Claire Feazel, chair. They now have a list of health and safety concerns to address along with reaching those citizens. 

"We're trying to figure out that part of it ... almost everything we had planned to do, we were not able to do," Feazel said. 

Woodbine City Administrator Samantha Young said she would have gone door to door throughout her city, but COVID-19 changed all of that. It also resulted in the cancellation of the Woodbine Crawfish Festival, which would have helped them reach more area citizens. 

"We are still in the early stages of figuring out what we can do," Young said. 

Because internet access is not as consistent on the north end of the county, the committee is hoping to arrange for computer tablets and a hotspot to be stationed at Woodbine City Hall as a free, accessible option for citizens. Details about that should be announced in the coming weeks. 

In the meantime, Young said she is trying to get the word out. She is reassuring citizens that it is safe to participate in the census and that it does have a financial impact on the city for years to come.

Especially now, Young said, the city and county need to make sure they are getting every dollar for which they qualify and that is often based on population. 

Data equals dollars

If Camden County and its cities are undercounted in the census, it could mean the loss of federal funding and elected representation. 

The co-chairs of Georgia Complete Count Committee and the co-executive directors of Every.One.Counts issued a letter last month to remind Georgians that census data is used by 316 programs for direct federal funding. 

"These include Medicare and Medicaid, school lunches and health centers and programs like WIC and SNAP. We all know people who benefits from these programs," the letter stated. "Without claiming our share of federal funds, the cost of these critical services will be borne with state and local resources.”

Census data also affects how national congressional districts are drawn and, in some cases, how many representatives are allocated. 

"Why does this matter? After the 2010 Census, five rural state house districts and two rural state senate districts became urban districts because of population shift," the letter continued. "To ensure appropriate representation after Census 2020, be counted to preserve your political voice."

Feazel said the Camden County Complete Count Committee will be working with the different local governments to dig down into the neighborhood and help increases awareness of the census. 

"We really do want to county every person that we possibly can," she added.