Parish leaders prioritize gaining accurate numbers to secure funding
Although more than a year remains before the 2020 census count begins in earnest, the U.S. Census Bureau considers the massive undertaking to be just around the corner. In Bossier Parish, officials have been looking around that corner for several months now.
Administrator Bill Altimus said staff members began preparing for the census many months ago because a thorough, accurate count is extremely important to the people who call Bossier Parish home.
“Census figures help drive the distribution of more than $800 billion in federal funds. We certainly want to be sure that Bossier Parish is in line for every federal dollar to which we are entitled,” Altimus said.
“The count also determines the number of Congressional representatives for the state and shape legislative districts. Local involvement is critical to making sure that everyone is counted,” he added.
Accurate census counts are so vital to local areas that a session was devoted to the topic at the recent convention of the National Association of Counties (NACo) that Altimus attended. There, he heard a trio of speakers deliver statistics and urge early preparation.
U.S. Census Bureau ads are scheduled to begin running in September to prepare Americans for the once-in-a-decade count. The Bureau plans to hire and train approximately a half million individuals in May and June of 2019 to physically count persons.
“The Bureau is estimating the U.S. population will be in the neighborhood of 330 million and about 65 percent of those will be counted using phone, mail and Internet,” Altimus said. “Still, the Bureau estimates that 60 million people will remain to be counted by canvassers.”
In 2010, the census reported 308.7 million people in the U.S. That was a 9.7 percent increase over the 281.4 million counted during Census 2000.
Altimus said Bossier Parish began prepping for the count nearly a year ago. He received police jury approval to hire consultant Jim Eppinette who had a strong background in database and systems.
Eppinette said the parish received a list of addresses and individuals from the Census Bureau in February of this year. His duty was to determine whether or not that list was accurate for the 2020 count. He also had a deadline to meet for returning the list with any revisions.
“Our prime asset is the parish E911 address list. That shows every structure in Bossier Parish. I compared theirs with ours and returned to them a revised list identifying the changes,” Eppinette explained.
Bossier Parish’s revised list has already been returned, well before the deadline, to the Bureau’s Geographic Division, he said. That may not, however, be the final revision that will be sent to the Bureau.
“Near the end of 2019, we can submit to them houses that are under new construction and scheduled for occupancy,” Eppinette said. “That is allowed under the Bureau’s new construction phase.”
Altimus said the 2020 census could prove to be a little more difficult to take because the nation’s economy is on the upswing.
“With the unemployment rate so low and so many more people in the work force, canvassers may have a difficult time locating individuals,” he said. “And, there’s always a chance some will just be missed. I understand the most undercounted population in the country are those under five years of age.”
Census figures for 2020 must be returned to the Bureau for compilation by April 1. Final numbers on the census are to be in the hands of the President by Dec. 31.