10 questions. 6 minutes. Billions at stake for Alabama. It’s that simple!

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This only comes around once a decade, which means the future of our state is on the line. Photo via Alabama Counts

Anyone else been shocked by your “screen time” report in recent weeks? Us, too. If you’re venturing into the realm of serial scroller, pause that double-tap for six minutes or less and do something that could change our schools, roads and healthcare in Jefferson County for the better. It’s a once-in-a-decade opportunity. Check it out!

What exactly is the census?

Look, I’ll be honest here. I had heard about the census before, but I didn’t really know how big of a deal it was.

As with most vague government-related concepts, there’s a lot of misinformation swirling around out there. The four most common myths are as follows:

  • Filling out the census online can compromise your personal information.
  • The census doesn’t really matter all that much. If I don’t have time to fill it out, it’s not going to make a difference.
  • Participating in the census can alert law enforcement to other legal issues such as outstanding tickets or residence issues.
  • Filling out the census is too complicated in some situations. For example: shared custody, college students, military, etc.

We dove deep and busted these myths. Find the facts here!

Why does the census matter?

Ever hit a pothole on your way to work that caused you to spill your coffee a little? How about seen the effects of underfunding in public schools? Jefferson County budgeted $58 million for road repairs this year, which is important work that needs to happen.

Where does that money come from? Taxpayers, sure, but a huge chunk of it comes from federal funding. How do we get that money? Well, it’s tied directly to census results.

Think of it this way: undercounted areas mean underfunded areas. The 10 minutes it takes you to fill out the census has a direct impact on YOUR life—your roads, your schools, your healthcare and more.

How does the census work?

I couldn’t write this article without trying it out for myself! If I’m being completely transparent, I had put it off a bit. I haven’t lived in Alabama for all that long, and I don’t own any property, so I thought it might get complicated.

If you have shared custody, college students, multiple residences, or any number of unique situations, you may be thinking the same thing. From the time I first clicked on the website to the time I submitted my response, less than five minutes had gone by. Seriously.

Here’s how it works, step-by-step.

  • Go to this website.
  • Click the green “respond” button.
  • Read the provided info and start the survey.
  • Enter your census ID if you know it. I didn’t have mine on hand, so I just entered my address.
  • Enter your name and phone number. This is only used to contact you if there are issues—your answers actually remain anonymous and are just used to produce statistics.
  • Answer some basic questions about who was living at your residence on April 1. I live alone, so this was super quick.
  • Finish up the last few questions, hit submit, and that’s it! You’re done. Really, it’s that easy, and it makes a big difference.

What’s the deadline?

Now, I have full faith that everyone reading this has 10 minutes to complete the census right now. But, deadlines help! Census workers are scheduled to start knocking on doors at residences that haven’t responded May 27 – August 14.

If you want to avoid your visit, submit your response by May 20, 2020, just to be safe. Don’t want to fill it out online? No worries! You can respond just as easily by mail or over the phone.

Who’s making it happen?

The Jefferson County Complete Count Committee, headed up by Commissioner Sheila Tyson, was established to educate and motivate residents to participate in the 2020 Census.

They’ve teamed up with all local municipalities to raise awareness and encourage self-response in hard-to-count areas. Here’s a preview of the steps they’re taking:

  • Having volunteers in place at school food pickups that will encourage and/or assist in responses.
  • Partnering with local clergy to reach communities through online messaging and ministry.
  • Establishing the Alabama Black Youth Vote. This group has made a massive push on social media making sure primarily black communities get accurately counted. Want to check it out? They’re hosting a “Zoom Social” on May 1 at 6:30PM.

All these efforts have resulted in success so far. They’ve seen a huge spike in hard-to-count areas around Jefferson County. Self-response is currently way above average, which is great news. Birmingham numbers are down, so they’re starting to focus their efforts within city limits.

Alabama Counts! Make sure you do, too. Follow Jefferson County on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with the latest updates.

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  • A Birmingham transplant who can usually be found hitting a new hiking trail or restaurant opening when she's not writing stories and snapping photos for Bham Now.