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How the Census is striving for a ‘complete count’ in Hall
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Census forms mailed out in March 2020. - photo by Scott Rogers

The census, a once-a-decade population and housing count in the United States, aims to reach every household and account for every person in the country. 

That’s more than 300 million people to reach, and an estimated 200,000 in Hall County. But a local committee, which is partnering with businesses, churches, nonprofits and other community groups, is working to inform people about the Census to keep the count as accurate as possible.

Hall County’s six-member Complete Count Committee is one of many groups around the nation focused on reaching populations that may be hard to count, by informing their communities about how Census data is used and how to complete the census.

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Phillippa Lewis Moss, director of Gainesville-Hall County Community Services, said the Census will take the average family about 10 minutes to complete. 

Every household will be mailed a postcard between March 12 and 20 with instructions about how to complete the Census form, which can be filled out online, over the phone or through mail. Forms are due April 1, and if a household has not completed the form by April, a Census worker will visit the home.

About 30,000 Census buttons, stickers and magnets will be given out to local government employees, businesses, social service agencies, nonprofit organizations, taxi companies and children at Hall County and Gainesville City Schools. Posters will go up at Gainesville Connection bus stops, and the committee has started a social media campaign. The state’s Complete Count Committee will work with libraries to set up help stations, Moss said.

Questions will include how many people live in the home, whether the home is occupied by owners or renters, age and sex of those living in the home, race of the occupants, and how the people living there are related.

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Census forms will be mailed out in March and Phillippa Lewis Moss, of the Hall County Complete Count Committee, is making sure that the word gets out in Hall County. - photo by Scott Rogers

The information is used to provide overall statistics for an area, but it is not shared with immigration or law enforcement agencies.

“Information that you disclose on the Census by law cannot be disclosed to any other entity outside the Census, other than in an aggregate format,” Moss said. “… You’ll be tallied among other people in the county and the world, but we won’t know your specific answers. There’s a penalty of jail and a financial fine if somebody were to divulge information.”

Vanesa Sarazua, founder and executive director of the Gainesville-based Hispanic Alliance GA, is another member of Hall’s Complete Count Committee. She said privacy is a concern for many who have doubts about the Census.

“The barriers are that our community feels that by filling out the Census, whatever they fill out will be used against them as far as their status in the country, or they may have an application for residency or renewal,” Sarazua said.

The Hispanic Alliance will have its office at 2490 Hilton Drive A in Gainesville open for people who have questions about the Census, and a staff member will be available to help community members fill out the form, Sarazua said.

The Census will be available in 12 non-English languages, including Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese.

Sarazua said the Hispanic Alliance has also done its own outreach to inform the community about the Census and the local services that benefit from the information, including Head Start pre-K, schools and transportation.

“We want to help the community realize what the Census is utilized for and how as a whole, our community benefits from everybody being counted for the next 10 years,” Sarazua said.

Census data determines funding for several programs that receive government dollars, such as Pell grants for college students, free and reduced-price school lunches, and road and bridge improvements. Moss said businesses often look at Census data when deciding where to locate.

The federal government distributes more than $675 billion to states and communities based on Census Bureau data each year. The numbers also determine how many representatives each state gets in the U.S. Congress and the district boundaries. Redistricting counts will be sent to the states by March 31, 2021.

Hall had a 77% participation rate in the 2010 Census, slightly higher than the national average of 74%. That rate is defined as the percentage of questionnaires mailed back by households that received them.

Each year, the Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Program utilizes current data on births, deaths and migration to calculate population change since the most recent decennial census, and produces a series of estimates of population.

Hall County’s population

  • 2010 Census: 179,684
  • 2011 estimate: 182,271
  • 2012 estimate: 184,127
  • 2013 estimate: 186,486
  • 2014 estimate: 189,239
  • 2015 estimate: 192,458
  • 2016 estimate: 196,523
  • 2017 estimate: 199,439
  • 2018 estimate: 202,148

Source: U.S. Census Bureau