By Britney Nguyen
Special to The News Reporter
(Since the publication of this story online and in print, Gov. Roy Cooper’s stay at home order was announced and Dalton Dockery, head of the Columbus County Complete Census Count Committee, regretfully canceled the meetings referred to below.)
The start of the decade has many on edge and wondering ‘what could possibly happen next?’ Despite this rough start, it’s essential to remember that another decade means another census.
The Columbus County Complete Census Count Committee has been tasked with making sure everyone in the county fills out the census this year. The committee is made up of 25 leaders around the county ranging from business owners to people in education. The U.S. Census Bureau set up the Complete Count Committees program to create awareness in communities all across the country.
Dalton Dockery, the chair of the committee in Columbus County, said committees around the country are charged with making sure every person is counted. “We’re working really hard to reach underserved and underrepresented populations too,” Dockery said. These populations include the homeless, people in rest homes and children in daycares.
Dockery said there are three main reasons for the large effort. One is the $675 billion in federal funds, grants and support that is distributed to states, counties and communities based on census data. “This is our chance of getting some of those funds for our county,” Dockery said. These funds are used for schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other programs.
It’s also about having fair representation. The results of the census are used to reapportion the House of Representatives to determine how many seats each state will get. Dockery said North Carolina could possibly get another member of Congress after this census. The census is also important for state officials to redraw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts to account for population shifts.
Lastly, completing the census is a civic duty. It is mandatory to complete the census, and it is a way to participate in democracy. The U.S. Constitution mandates that everyone in the country be counted every 10 years.
Every household has the option to respond to the census online, by mail or by phone. Almost every household will receive its invitation to participate in the 2020 Census from the postal mail or by a census worker. At this time, because of the spread of COVID-19, 2020 Census field operations are suspended until April 1, 2020. The last official day for the census is July 30, but Dockery encourages people to respond as soon as possible.
There are 10 sites throughout the county with information for people who have questions or need assistance. The Census Assistance Meetings are only to assist citizens if they have questions; There will be no presentation. On March 30, there will be meetings from 3-7 p.m. at Tabor City Library and Sandy Plain Baptist in Welches Creek Community. On March 31, there will be a meeting from 3-7 p.m. at the Senior Center in Nakina. On April 1, there will be a meeting from 3-7 p.m. at Chadbourn Library. On April 2, there will be meetings from 3-7 p.m. at Fair Bluff Library and Mt. Hebron AME Zion in Hallsboro. On April 6, there will be a meeting from 3-7 p.m. at Whiteville Library. On April 7, there will be meetings from 3-7 p.m. at Riegelwood Library and New Mt. Zion Church. On April 8, there will be a meeting from 10 a.m.-7 pm at Sandyfield. On April 9, there will be a meeting from 3-7 p.m. at Lake Waccamaw Library.