Census 2020: VSU Partners with South Georgia Communities to Help Shape the Future
Tuesday, March 17th, 2020
With democracy and hundreds of billions of dollars at stake, Valdosta State University has partnered with the people of South Georgia to help shape the future by encouraging a successful and accurate Census 2020 count.
“We want to provide support for all 41 counties in our service area because the census results impact every aspect of community development,” said Darrell Moore, executive director of VSU’s Center for South Georgia Regional Impact. “We realize the importance of the census to our region, especially our small, rural communities.”
Data collected during Census 2020 is used to ensure public safety, plan new schools and hospitals, choose locations for business and industry development, improve neighborhoods and build new ones, enhance quality-of-life initiatives, and more.
The data is also used to reapportion the House of Representatives, determining how many seats each state gets, and it is used by states to redraw the boundaries of their congressional and state legislative districts.
“Census 2020 is going to have a huge impact on South Georgia,” Moore said.
The United States has counted its population every 10 years since 1790. In fact, it is mandated by the Constitution.
Census 2020 counts every person living in the U.S. — once, only once, and in the right location. The results help determine how more than $675 billion in federal funding is distributed to states and communities.
“Communities benefit the most when everyone is counted,” Moore said. “According to the most recent counts, each person in the U.S. is worth $2,300 per year in federal funding. If we miss just 100 people, then that would mean a loss of $230,000 each year. That’s a lot of money to a small town.”
Motivated by the fact that many rural counties and communities had undercounts during Census 2010, VSU’s Center for South Georgia Regional Impact began sponsoring local and regional meetings throughout South Georgia in late spring / early summer of 2019.
“We have tried to help each community come up with an individualized plan to promote the census in their community,” Moore said. “What works in Moultrie won’t work in Valdosta. What works in Valdosta won’t work in Douglas. We have helped them put together a strategic plan for each individual community.
“We have developed focus groups to refine our marketing message, and I think the biggest thing we have done so far is provide free marketing materials to support our 41-county service area plus an additional 11 counties that are outside of our area — because we are trying to help the entire state have an accurate count.
“We have billboards up in every county. We have coloring pages that have a good census message. We have table tents, and the goal is to have a table tent on every restaurant table in all 41 counties. We also developed five posters that target different demographics — how the census impacts your family; how it impacts farm labor, migrant labor; how it impacts children, how it impacts economic development; and how it impacts leadership.”
VSU delivered more than 65,000 posters and 45,000 table tents at no cost to its 41-county service area plus an additional 11 counties outside the area in January. That same month Moore testified before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform, sharing the story of what VSU is doing to ensure every rural Georgia — and every rural American — is counted.
“The work we are doing with the U.S. Census Bureau and the Georgia Governor’s Complete Count Committee has drawn the attention of people throughout the state and the nation,” Moore said.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, all households will receive an invitation to participate in the census by March 20. They will then have three options to respond — online, by phone, or by mail. All responses are anonymous and confidential. Title 13 of the U.S. Code prohibits the release of any identifiable information collected during the census — even to law enforcement agencies.
Everyone who lives in the United States is required by law to participate in Census 2020.
“We are excited to be partnering with our South Georgia communities on Census 2020 and building those relationships,” Moore added. “This work and the data that is collected will play a critical role in helping us realize our commitment to have a positive impact on community and economic development in our region.”