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Still time to fill out census forms

By Staff, 08/13/20 12:55 PM

PRESCOTT – In its infinite wisdom, the federal government has cut the deadline for returning census forms from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30.

This means communities like Prescott are scrambling to get people to fill out their 2020 census forms as the number returned will have an effect on the federal funds the county and cities therein receive. Mary Godwin, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Economic Development Office, said the change in deadline as disconcerting as, to the best of her knowledge, local people haven’t been trained how to collect census information yet, though they’re supposed to be going out into the field to do their job. “There’s no way to do it logistically,” she said. “We’re asking people to take three to five minutes and fill out their  form.”

Godwin is also urging those who have filled out their census info to call their family, friends and neighbors and make sure they have as well. Those who haven’t received a form in the mail, she added, can call the EDO and it can be done over the phone. Or, for those who have access to a computer and internet, they can be done online. Godwin reminds everyone the questions asked aren’t invasive and there are no questions about income. There are only a few questions, and those deal with the name, date of birth, number of people living in the household and the mortgage. This information is also confidential.

Several people in the county, Godwin said, are concerned their monthly government benefits will be affected negatively if they fill out their census forms. Nothing, she said, could be further from the truth and this is false information. In fact, by not submitting a census form, their benefits could be adversely affected as the census bases funding for programs such as Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP, Section 8 housing and low-income energy assistance on the population of cities and counties based on census information. So, those who fear turning in a census form because they worry about their government  benefits are actually hurting themselves in the long run.

Census information, Godwin continued, is important as the information is also directly tied into programs such as school funding, the free breakfast and lunch programs at school, Pell grants, head start, special education, the USDA, senior citizen programs and infrastructure for cities and counties.

Godwin and Tammie Rose, community development director, went to the Nevada School District Open House Tuesday to get parents of elementary school children to fill out census forms. They will be returning to Nevada tonight to work with parents of children in senior high. They will also be setting up shop throughout the county to help people fill out their census information. They’ll be at Dollar General in Rosston, Odell and Paula’s in Willisville, Cash Savers, Family Dollar and Dollar General in Prescott and 67 Gas and Grill in Emmet. The Prescott School District, she added, will be having a virtual open house and will be sending information home with students to get parents to fill out their census forms. In addition, those going inside City Hall to pay their utility bill can get assistance in filling the form out there.

“We’re also asking churches for help,” she said. This is being done by getting the ministers to remind their congregations to fill out the forms during their services.

Rosston, she said, saw its numbers increase by more than 20 percent because Mayor Dale Quarles and his assistant literally went door-to-door to get people to fill out their census forms and sent letters reminding and encouraging people to fill them out. Now, Rosston  has  the highest percentage of forms returned in the county. Other mayors have been contacted and asked to get  in touch  with residents in their communities urging them to fill out their forms, as well as putting reminders in with their water bills. Dale Booker, 911 coordinator and mayor of Emmet, will be putting notices on the 911 system for those signed up.

Information on the census can be found on the Facebook pages for the EDO and Prescott-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce.

Godwin said the COVID-19 pandemic has made getting people to cooperate more difficult.

2020 Census Response Rates for Nevada County Cities as of 8-11-20

State of Arkansas 58.0%

Nevada County 51.3%

Bluff City 37.5%

Bodcaw 51.8%

Cale 50.0%

Emmet 42.8%

Oak Grove 51.6%

Prescott 50.8%

Rosston 65.2%

Willisville 42.0%