woman census taker wearing safety mask

COVID-19, Moultrie County, and the 2020 Census

What problems do we face with our 2020 census count? What’s the status of the count in Moultrie County? What can we do to help our communities?

Why is our nation struggling with the 2020 census count?

We’re struggling because 2020 has been a challenging year. It hasn’t been easy to promote a census program to enhance economic development and support vital programs and services for community residents who face so many devastating problems. For instance, in the first three-quarters of this year, the priority concerns grabbing the headlines of our national and local news included:

  1. An on-going global pandemic resulting in a U.S. death toll now topping 200,000 (and still rising)
  2. A corresponding economic toll with U.S. business closures in the tens of thousands and job losses in the millions
  3. A divisive presidential election that becomes more contentious with each passing day
  4. An increase in weather-related disasters such as wildfires, hurricanes, tornados, and flooding, resulting in loss of human lives, homes, and billions of dollars in damages

Why is Moultrie County struggling with the 2020 census count?

Unfortunately, it’s also been a challenging year in Moultrie County. According to the Moultrie County Health Department, our Central Illinois county now has over 200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and three deaths resulting from the disease. The increase in confirmed cases is not a cause for panic, but for vigilance in following recommended health guidelines.

Our county’s businesses have suffered throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Adapting to restrictions necessary to reduce the spread of the disease, but is costly and has undoubtedly hindered profitability and sustainability.

Consequently, most of our businesses have endured the financial strain of limited operations, which has forced some to cut back services and lay-off employees. Sadly, others have had no other choice than to close their doors.

Likewise, individuals and families have suffered as our unemployment rate in Moultrie County went from 2.1% in March to 6.1% in July. Although this rate is well below the national average, that’s small comfort to those left with financial obligations and no source of income.

Undeniably, a loss of income can have a devastating impact on a family. When struggling to keep family safe, a roof overhead, and food on the table, it’s understandable that the 2020 Census might not rank very high on one’s list of priorities.

What’s the status of the 2020 Census count in Moultrie County?

Moultrie County’s response rate for completing the 2020 Census as of September 18 is 73.5%. Comparatively, that number is higher than many other counties in Central and Southern Illinois. In fact, our percentage is above that of the State of Illinois (70.4%) and the national rate (66.0%).

Although our response rate may sound good, there are three problems we cannot afford to overlook.

Problem #1: A loss of federal funds

According to the Illinois Department of Human Services, every person counted directs $1,400 in federal funds per year to their state (for county and community) each year for the next decade. These federal funds will support our schools, roads and bridges, healthcare, nutrition programs, affordable housing, and disaster relief, among many other programs and services.

Suppose Moultrie County experiences a natural disaster that destroys homes, businesses, and infrastructure (roads, bridges, water lines, sewage systems, etc.). Would you prefer that our county and communities be eligible for funds based on 100% of our population, or should we be content with 73.5%?

Also, what happens if the funds based on 73.5% of our population prove insufficient for critical programs and services? Do our elected officials cut those programs and services, or do they try to raise the money another way?

Problem #2: A loss of congressional representation

The decennial census count also determines how many seats Illinois will have in the House of Representatives.

Since our state’s population has declined for six consecutive years, we were likely to lose a congressional district. At our current undercount, we are at risk of losing two districts instead of one, which means we could see our number of representatives shrink from 18 to 16 members. In other words, an undercount will likely result in a significant loss of congressional representation.

We need an accurate count of our population in Moultrie County. An accurate count will help ensure representation for issues important to Central Illinois farmers and residents of rural communities regarding public policy and investments.

Problem #3: We’re running out of time to count our Moultrie County residents

The 2020 Census count, originally scheduled to end on October 31, is now set to end on September 30. As of this writing, that’s less than ten days from now. This shortened timeline could prove disastrous for our county and communities throughout rural America.

Currently, cases are pending in the federal courts to extend the 2020 Census count through October. However, we have no way of controlling the outcome of these cases, so we need to act on the timeline now in effect. Therefore, the deadline for the 2020 Census count is September 30.

What can we do to encourage participation in the 2020 Census?

We need your help. There is no time for a new campaign or advertising effort. Please help us spread the word and encourage those who haven’t completed the 2020 Census to do so ASAP.

Here are five ideas that could prove useful in this effort, but they won’t cost us a cent. In fact some of these can be accomplished in less than five minutes. Thus, I’m confident that any of these ideas will help encourage others to participate in the 2020 Census count.

  1. Make sure YOU complete the 2020 Census by mail, phone, or online at 2020census.gov before the September 30 deadline.
  2. Please spread the word by taking the time to “like” and “share” this post (and similar posts) on your social network.
  3. Encourage your friends and family to complete the 2020 Census. If necessary, explain why the census count is important to get our fair share of federal funds and ensure adequate representation in the U.S. Congress.
  4. Contact someone you know who belongs or knows of a person(s) belonging to a group historically undercounted. These might include:
    • Rural residents living outside of incorporated limits
    • Senior adults (living alone, in a nursing home or non-seniors in a group home setting, etc.)
    • Children under the age of ten, including newborns (one of the most undercounted groups in the U.S.)
  5. Remind everyone to be courteous and helpful to the census takers who work in our communities. Since our deadline is September 30, we need their help to get this job done.

Together, we can make a difference

It’s time for the remaining 26.5% of our county residents to participate in the 2020 Census count. Obviously, not everyone will choose to participate, but it won’t cost us a cent to ask them. Together, we can help shape the future for our communities and all who live in Moultrie County.

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