August 8, 2020 6:00:12 PM
Mississippi is responding to a surprise decision announced Aug. 3 by the U.S. Census Bureau to shorten the census deadline by one month, from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30. State leaders said the shortened schedule eliminates a crucial time for door-to-door census workers to follow up with those who have not yet responded in an effort to get a more complete count for the state.
The Census Bureau has said that this decision was made in order to expedite the process of data collection to meet an end-of-year deadline.
"I challenge everyone in the Mississippi State University family to register and 'be counted' for the census," said Mississippi State University President Mark E. Keenum. "An accurate census count puts Mississippi in line for the maximum return of federal investment back into our state for things like highways, education, and healthcare. Mississippians truly can't afford not to register for the census."
For the 2010 census, Mississippi had a 61.3 percent self-response rate. The door-to-door census operation helped that number rise to 91.1 percent enumeration, but it was still one of the lowest in the nation.
Now in 2020, Mississippi has had a chance to exceed the 2010 number and bring billions of dollars more to the state in spite of the pandemic. But with 31 critical days having been removed from the timeline needed to improve self-response and conduct non-response follow up, many are worried that the Magnolia State could lose out on billions of dollars since in-person census counts through field operations are of particular importance to the state of Mississippi.
Public urged to contact legislators
Former State Senator Giles Ward, chairman of the Mississippi Complete Count Committee, has been traveling the state both in person and via Zoom to speak to as many people as possible about the census.
"The high levels of poverty that persist in our state, coupled with education, health, and infrastructure needs that we would face in 'normal times,' are now exacerbated by a public health crisis," Ward said. "A pandemic-related low response to the 2020 census will impact us for the next decade, as well as subsequent decades. We won't just be at a disadvantage to respond to the damages caused by COVID-19, we'll be at a disadvantage to address issues that our state has been facing for years."
He said this is why Mississippi can't afford to lose a month of non-response follow up. The committee is urging every Mississippian to write or call their members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate in a push to get this critical month added back to the census timeline.
"Mississippians have been attempting to improve our state's quality of life and wellbeing for years, so we cannot afford to face under-representation, under-funding, and under-development now when we need it most," Ward said. "Regardless of what happens with the deadline, we owe it to ourselves and our fellow Mississippians to encourage anyone we know to complete the census online or by phone as soon as possible."
More information is online at mscensus2020.org.