This past Saturday (2/27/10), the Black Elected Officials of Greenville County held a 2010 Census Forum at the Phyllis Wheatley Center. This would be the first Census I’m actually participating in (knowingly, anyway). In 2000, I was a freshman at Clemson and I’m pretty sure I was probably still being counted under my parent’s household then. I never really knew the true importance of the Census until this year. I knew it was for basic demographic purposes but I had no idea about the incredible impact that 10 little questions can have in our community. A representative from the SC Budget & Control Board, Ms. Jameson, really put the Census in perspective for me.
She said the Census is all about R&R: REVENUE & REPRESENTATION. In 2000, Ms. Jameson said, there’s a lot of money that we didn’t get because people didn’t fill out and turn in their Census forms. In the City of Greenville alone, 1,064 people were missed. That caused us to lose $300,000 per YEAR over 10 years. Greenville County was one of the top 10 most undercounted counties: over 4,939 people were estimated missed. Do you know what that equates to? Just a cool $2.5 MILLION. Per year. Greenville County missed out on $25 million over the last 10 years because of the number of people who didn’t complete and fill out their census forms and return them. We need to be accurately represented and make sure we get our “fair share” of the pie, Ms. Jameson said. And the people we need to reach are not the people who show up at the neighborhood association meetings, who are actively involved in the community, etc. It’s the people who are disengaged…hard to reach. These are the ones we have to make sure are doing their part to be counted. It takes 10 minutes for 10 years. 10 questions for every household is all that needs to be done.
Ms. Jameson mentioned that last time a lot of people were afraid. They may have been “illegal” citizens or “hiding from the law,” etc. All of this information is safe and confidential; it’s only used to help the community, not to harm you.
The most difficult to reach are the most underrepresented: The hardest to reach demographic was 1. Hispanic Males, followed by 2. Hispanic Females. And the list from there looks like this:
3. African American Males
4. African American Females
5. White Males
6. White Females – the least difficult group to reach
So the SC Budget & Control Board is using their advertising dollars to try to reach the hardest to reach groups – including the African-American population – 43% of their advertising budget is being used to reach this population. In our area, of course that includes 107.3 JAMZ. There are also 4 billboards in Greenville. Additionally, there’s a separate Hispanic website devoted entirely to the Hispanic population – all in espanol.
When will the forms be mailed out? Census forms will be mailed out and should be received by you by MARCH 15th. STOP and take 10 minutes to do it then.
What’s the impact on the local level? That money is for roads. For schools (and we know how badly SC needs money for education). For small business development. College scholarships. Help for criminal victims. Daycare centers. And many other worthy non-profit programs that any one of us would love to see in our community.
Mr. Burns, a manager over the supervisors who are over the enumerators for the Census, is imploring people to take an exam which I gathered must be necessary for people to be able to be a Census enumerator in the first place. He mentioned that there are Questionnaire Assistance Centers – people can get jobs manning those. Information on those, he says, can be found on the City of Greenville website. Jennifer Rigby’s the contact there.
There will also be Be Counted Facilities – 78 of them – in and around Greenville. They’re display centers that you can go to and pick up a form directly and mail it in.
Mr. Burns also gave some good tips on how to ID a Census Bureau Employee. If you’re concerned about someone misrepresenting themselves – all Census Bureau employees are required to wear/have on them an ID badge that includes their signature on the back and their photo on the front. You can ask for this ID if a Census employee knocks on your door. He said if you ask for it and they fail to produce the ID, that you should tell them to leave and call the police if they don’t.
There were questions about how homeless people or transitory people – people who are living in hotels, etc – are going to be counted. There are “Group Hoarders Enumerators” who will be responsible for this task. They’ll comb the parks, the underpasses on the highway, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, contact hotel managers to inquire about people living there, etc – all to try to get the most accurate number possible.
Xanthene Norris, Greenville County Council member and member of the Epsilon Tau Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (my chapter!) – mentioned that the One Stop programs in Greenville (we currently have 3) are all made possible by funding due to representation/demographic info obtained from the Census.
Jil Littlejohn, Greenville City Council member, mentioned that with the last Census, the City of Greenville obtained $12.3 million – which helped fund the changes on 385, buses, affordable housing programs, tutorial programs, job training, fair housing, etc. A total of $1.5 million went to our police and fire departments, road maintenance, etc. She encouraged citizens to fill out the Census form immediately and send it back in so you don’t have to answer your door for a Census enumerator.
Karl Allen rendered a powerful story about how the Census affects the drawing/redrawing of City and County lines and how that drastically affects the community – particularly our underrepresented communities.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The Census is super important to our communities – particularly our underrepresented communities in the city and county. It’s really important that everybody be counted – reaching all segments/groups of the population ensures that we as a city and county continue to progress in every facet: in our infrastructure, our education, the non-profit arena, etc. I was glad to have attended the forum and I highly encourage every individual to make sure your community is just as educated about the importance of this as well. Just as we encouraged people to vote, make sure your neighbors, family, church members, co-workers, etc. are all counted in the 2010 Census. We can’t afford not to be counted! We’re all busy but we need to stop and make time to educate everyone about the importance of this. Organize a meeting in your neighborhood, at your church, with your organizations you’re involved with and see what you can do about reaching everyone – the people you see show up all the time and the people you never see.
WHO WAS THERE? State Representative Chandra Dillard (also my soror in ETO) was present and one of the leaders of the Census Forum effort that day. Gaye Sprague with the City Council was also present along with Glenda Morrison-Fair (another ETO soror, School Board District 23), Lillian Brock Fleming (Vice Mayor Pro Tem), Representative Karl Allen of District 25, Donna Coleman with Phyllis Wheatley was present along with 3 Neighborhood Association leaders, area Pastors (including Phillip Baldwin of Bethlehem Baptist), SHARE, Greenville County Development Authority, Pleasant Valley, Census Officials, etc. Members of the ETO Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. were on hand to help with the event along with members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Other black greek fraternities present included Alpha Phi Alpha, Omega Psi Phi. Zeta Phi Beta was also present.
Some other helpful sites: