SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – If you haven’t filled out your census form, the word from two Democrats making the rounds, virtually, in the South is, “if you are not counted you end up not counting,” in terms of resources for your community and your state.
Stacey Abrams, former Georgia state representative and founder of Fair Count, joined former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is also the founder and president of E Pluribus Unum, in urging people across six southern states to respond to the U.S. Census.
The latest information indicates that the national response rate is 88.8%, while the rate in states through the Southeast ranged from:
- 79.8% in Alabama
- 80.2% in Georgia
- 80.7% in Mississippi
- 81.3% in Louisiana
- 81.5% in South Carolina
- 83.3% in Florida
The fewer people counted — the less money comes back to states.
“With just a 1% undercount, Georgia would stand to lose up to $75 million,” said Abrams. “But right now we’re behind by 20% which means we’re risking losing up to $1 Billion a year if we don’t get our count right.”
Both Abrams and Landrieu said southern states present challenges in getting the count right.
“We have some of the hardest to count populations, i.e. rural communities of color,” said Abrams.
Both Democratic leaders worry about what an undercount means for the entire South, in terms of services — especially in the days of COVID 19.
“It means not having the resources, God forbid, for the kind of recovery we’re going to need for COVID or the distribution of the vaccine,” said Landrieu.
“In Georiga, we’ve already seen the closure of two rural hospitals in the midst of a pandemic and if we do not get counted, the resources we need for COVID recovery, but more importantly for a full-scale recovery, will be lost to this state,” said Abrams.
Both said communities of color are traditionally undercounted for a list of reasons and are now the ones hardest hit by COVID 19.
“I know it’s hard for people (right now) but we have to ask everyone to focus in on this one very simple thing which is to be counted,” said Landrieu.
Abrams says the current census sets the stage for the next decade. “And we know in 2010 there was an undercount in Georgia, and we lost money,” she said.
Both also spoke about what they called the shortening of the “already challenged 2020 census.” The process is now set to end on Sept. 30.
“Making sure that we have the time to do it is critically important. The Trump administration has politicized the census and they’ve tried to cut short they’re tried to cut short the amount of time that we actually spend on it,” said Landrieu. “There are organizations in court right now trying to extend that time so workers can actually go door to door and talk to more citizens.”
Still, Landrieu acknowledge that, short of a court win, the South is in “last two minutes of the game.”
He and Abrams urged people to get involved and fill out the census form and to encourage their neighbors to do the same.
“Ten minutes to fill out the census can improve the next ten years. That’s a good trade-off, and I encourage everyone to get the census done so we get the next ten years right,” said Abrams.