U.S. census underway in Coastal Empire, despite COVID-19 challenges

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)- The U.S. Census Bureau says Georgians have a lot to gain from being included in the count. But on Wednesday, people whose job it is to canvas neighborhoods have not been working, including those in the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry.

Field operations have been suspended until mid-April and, subsequently, the deadline to submit a response has been extended to mid-August.

So far, 289,195 residents in Chatham County have received invitations in the mail — with ID codes — to complete the U.S. census online, by mail or over the phone.

2020 is the first year in U.S. history the census can be completed online.

Georgia’s 34.1 percent response rate is slightly behind the rest of the country’s 36.2 percent response rate.

Chatham County’s response rate, as of March 31, is 29.3 percent. The county has had problems with the census in the past.

U.S. Census Bureau Assistant Communication Director Stephen Buckner says response rates are what they predicted, despite early problems associated with coronavirus.

“We do everything we can to count every single person living in the United States,” he told News 3 on Tuesday morning. “That starts by asking people to respond on their own and then we go knocking on doors.”

April 1 is Census Day throughout the United States. Volunteer groups like Coastal Georgia Indicators Coalition have been forced to cancel events celebrating the start of the count, which officially began earlier this month.

“We’re continuing to work with partners that are doing food distribution and checking in with residents who are homebound right now to make sure we get information to them,” said Lizann Roberts, the executive director of Coastal Georgia Indicators Coalition.

The census is important — according to the U.S. Census Bureau — because it determines how many representatives and how much federal money is allocated to each region in the country.

Federal funds are important during natural disasters and especially now, during a pandemic.

“If you’re not counted this year, it’s a ten-year mistake. That means real money from the federal government coming back to Savannah and Georgia in federal funds for schools, hospitals, roads, healthcare clinics and other social service programs,” said Buckner.

According to Chatham Counts, the State of Georgia receives $2,300 per person each year. That money is allocated based on census results.

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