Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey joined with more than 200 elected officials and leaders to kick off a statewide effort to get everyone in the state counted in the 2020 census less than one year from now.
Alabama Counts is the program emphasizing the need to ensure Alabama’s population is accurately and fully counted. At risk is the loss of federal funding for everything from infrastructure to health care and, potentially, the loss of a seat in Congress.
“We as Alabamians have a tremendous opportunity to positively affect the future of our state and our children by simply taking about five minutes to say ‘I count’ and completing our census forms in 2020,” Ivey said. “Our goal with Alabama Counts is maximum participation, and we are going to be working hard over the next year to attain that goal, so we can secure a brighter future for our communities.”
Mayors, county commissioners, legislators and other community leaders from across Alabama held signs proclaiming their county or city “counts.” The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) is leading the statewide effort and is partnering with Alabama Possible, a Birmingham-based nonprofit focused on addressing poverty issues.
ADECA is the governor’s liaison to the U.S. Census Bureau. Alabama Possible brings skills and experience to coordinate efforts with community organizations, foundations, businesses and other groups.
“The 2020 census is very important to the future of our state, and Alabama Counts is designed to get the word out far and broad, but we need the help of every mayor, county commissioner and community leader in Alabama to take it to the grassroots level,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “We want to equip our local leaders to help us spread the message of how important the census is to our state and ask the Alabamians in their areas to help us by fulfilling a simple, civic duty and completing a census form.”
Kristina Scott, executive director of Alabama Possible, said census data is used by organizations and the state and federal government.
“Alabama Possible educates Alabamians about economic disparities and barriers to prosperity in the state of Alabama,” she said. “One of the most critical tools we have to do that is with census data. Through this census data we know more than 800,000 Alabamians live below the federal poverty line. It’s through census data that we know that our household incomes are not keeping up with the rest of the nation’s.”
Steve Spencer, president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, said that data equates to federal dollars – an estimated $1,600 per person, according to a George Washington University study.
“People don’t realize the money that’s tied to a person counted in the census,” said Spencer, who is on the Alabama Counts executive committee. “You’ve just got to be an individual who lives in this state and the state gets money. It’s very important.”
Scott expanded on Spencer’s comment.
“Census data is used to allocate funds to our communities, both at the federal level and at the state level,” she said. “It matters when you think about roads and infrastructure. It matters when you think about school lunches and ensuring that children have food to eat. It matters through senior service. It matters for help in families paying for college.”
Boswell said there is virtually no area of a person’s life that isn’t affected by census information and the funding tied to it.
“Whether it be education, whether it be economic development, whether it be health care … you name it, it touches us,” Boswell said.
The governor and Boswell unveiled the Alabama Counts logo, introduced www.census.alabama.gov as the state’s official 2020 census website and revealed the state’s 2020 census theme of “I Count.”
Starting in mid-March 2020, Alabama households will receive a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau with instructions on completing 2020 census forms. The Census Bureau is encouraging an online response but will have a toll-free number for households to complete their information over the phone or request a traditional paper form. The Census Bureau plans to mail paper forms to households in rural areas with potentially low internet access. The information collected during the census is confidential and cannot be used against a person by any group or agency.
The new Alabama Counts website is designed as an information and resource hub for community leaders, groups and individual Alabamians. New features and resources will be added regularly over the next year. Information will also be shared on social media through the dedicated Alabama Counts Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.