County racing to complete census count
With a Sep. 30 deadline looming for the federal census count to be complete, Marion County is doing better than most Florida counties in gathering a full headcount, but it still has a significant way to go before it would have what is deemed a complete count.
“We’re doing very good,” said County Commissioner Michelle Stone, who chairs the county’s census committee. “I say very good; we’re not at 100 percent.”
Kerry Blood, who serves as a liaison to the County Commission and the census committee, said that so far, Marion County has counted an estimated 65.7 percent of its population. That is a little ahead of where the county was at this point during the 2010 census, when it had 63.8 percent of the county counted. The percentage of the count that is complete is an educated guess based on estimates the Census Bureau does in the years between official censuses.
Blood said having as near a full count as possible is important because the census determines how federal dollars that are allocated to communities for everything from health care and education to infrastructure projects and food assistance is based on the census count. So, if only 80 percent of the population is counted, for example, then Marion County would only receive 80 percent of what it really deserves when federal money is doled out.
Compared with other Florida counties, Marion County is doing pretty well, Blood said. She said Marion ranks twelfth among the sate’s 67 counties in the percentage of households already counted. She said most counties are not within 10 percent of their 2010 counts at this point.
The areas of Marion County where the response to the census have been best are the middle and southern portions of the county, as well as the Dunnellon area. The areas that have the worst performance – and where live census takers are now knocking on doors – include Salt Springs, Reddick and the forest area. An estimated 200 census takers will be hitting county neighborhoods knocking on doors to get a complete census count through Sept. 30.
The census committee also has engaged barber shops, beauty salons and the farming and business communities through an education program called “Avoid the Knock” to help spread the word about the importance of a full census count.
If you have not participated in the census count, you can go online to 2020census.gov and fill out a form, or there is a phone number, 844-330-2020, that you can call to be counted.
“Every time you hit a pot hole, every time you go to the ER, there’s federal money on the other side,” Blood said, adding that the amount that is available to our community will depend, in part, on the census.