April 1, 2020. That’s the official “reference day” for the upcoming U.S. Census, the constitutionally mandated, every-decade count of all people living in the country. Many households will have received a letter with instructions on how to respond to census questions online — the first time the count has been conducted this way — while others will receive paper forms. Those that do not respond may receive an in-person visit from a census worker for a “non-response follow up visit.”
But Carroll County doesn’t have a reputation for being a low response rate jurisdiction, according to Lynn Davis, executive director of the Carroll County Youth Service Bureau.
“In 2010 I think Carroll County had the highest response rate in the state of Maryland,” she said. “That was pretty cool.”
“Our goal is to continue Carroll County’s proud tradition of having one of the highest response rates in the state of Maryland,” says Don Rowe, executive director of The Arc of Carroll County and chair of the county’s Carroll Counts 2020 committee. The committee consists of community leaders and organizations and is divided into subcommittees.
Davis is chairing the nonprofit subcommittee.
“My job is to go out and recruit other nonprofits who are interested in spreading the word,” about the census, she said, in hopes of reaching more people and ensuring Carroll continues to have a high response rate. “That’s the bottom line. We are just trying to engage more people in completing the census.”
Many of the large nonprofits and agencies have already joined in the first few meetings of Davis’s subcommittee, including the Carroll County Health Department, Habitat for Humanity of Carroll County and Human Service Programs of Carroll County, Inc., but she is hoping to reach some of the smaller nonprofits out there that may serve other niches of the community.
“We’ve got about 15 total nonprofits on our list right now,” Davis said. “I just had an email from someone who said, ‘You know, our Rotary club may be interested in handing out pamphlets.’ I said great!”
The Carroll Counts 2020 committee meets monthly, most recently on Monday. The next meeting of the nonprofits subcommittee is 1 p.m. Thursday, at the Youth Service Bureau, 59 Kate Wagner Road, Westminster.
Susan Mitchell, of the Carroll County Public Schools Judy Center, is one of the people who will be meeting with Davis’s group. The Judy Center provides support and educational services for children from birth through age 5.
“Some of the population we serve may not willingly participate in the census or may not recognize the importance of being counted; and thus our county loses that funding,” Mitchell said. The Judy Center focuses on building trusting relationships with families, she said, and so she hopes, “to support them to respond, so that there is a more accurate account of families living in the community.”
At Access Carroll, Executive Director Tammy Black said her team hopes to spread the word about the census to all the patients that use the clinic, which helps the uninsured and uninsured in the community with low cost health care.
“We want to make sure we are putting up signage, we are pretty highly trafficked, frequented, and it’s a good opportunity for us to share this information with all of our patients. We serve approximately 10,000 individuals annually,” Black said. “I am envisioning ‘You Matter: make sure you are part of the Census 2020 count.’”
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Many of those 10,000 people Access Carroll serves each year are homeless or at risk for homelessness, with transient living situations, according to Black. Access Carroll is working with other nonprofits and Human Services Programs of Carroll County Inc. to develop a plan to make sure everyone is counted, she said, particularly since the at risk people Access Carroll serves make use of services with funding that depends on the census.
The census count isn’t just about knowing the size of the population after all, Davis notes. Federal monies coming through the State of Maryland to Carroll County, and then to nonprofits are affected by the count, the accuracy of which impact the county for years to come.
“One of the interesting facts that I learned is that for every person that does not complete the census, the county loses $1,800 per year, times 10 years. So it’s an $18,000 loss for everyone who does not complete the census,” Davis said. “That translates into schools, into services, into people representing us in Congress.”
Beyond the financial bottom line, accurate census data will also provide information directly pertinent to many of the nonprofits and community organizations in Carroll, such as Carroll Hospital and agencies serving seniors, according to Davis.
“I am sure our census this decade is going to look different as far as our population is aging in Carroll County and the services attached to that aging population,” she said.
Upcoming meetings of the subcommittee will focus on constructing a plan for how all nonprofits involved will go about spreading the word about the census, help people with questions fill out their census forms and answer questions.
“We’re on our way to having a complete census this coming year in 2020,” Davis said. “We welcome anyone from nonprofits who is wiling to jump in and do a little bit of work and brainstorming to make this a success.”