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U.S. Census Bureau

Louisiana, this is our chance.

It’s time for us, all of us, to be counted. 

The United States mandates that we be counted once every decade. It’s in the Constitution. It’s not optional. Our founders decided long ago that it was important that we know how many people are on United States soil so we would be in the best position possible to know how to use our resources. Depending on whose count you use, more than 50 programs use Census Bureau data to determine how to split $675 billion and about 300 programs use the data to determine how to use $1.5 trillion.

Our state is among the least effective when it comes to self-response rates across the nation. We’re sitting at No. 46, meaning there are 45 states doing better than ours when it comes to completed household counts. If we want to do better, we can decide not to take a defeatist attitude, making sure that each of us, our families, friends, associates, colleagues, faith house members, neighbors and children are counted. Unfortunately, like so many states, there are a number of communities and neighborhoods that are historically low performers when it comes to census counts. We can compensate for those areas by overperforming in communities and neighborhoods where we’re doing well.

There’s no question that COVID-19 has completely changed how the count is being conducted. The original Census Bureau field counting deadline was July 31. Then, when the pandemic struck, officials decided they would need until October 31 to get the most accurate count so they would have enough time to finish the official count by the constitutionally-mandated Dec. 31 deadline. Then Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced that census workers would need to stop by the end of this month, Sept. 30, to get the most accurate count by the end of the year.

That made quite a number of people suspicious, including several former census bureau directors. They claimed some serious inaccuracies would result. But the counting end date hasn’t changed. We’re stuck with September 30 for field counting and December 31 to complete the count.

This makes it more important that we ramp up efforts to count the hard-to-count, the often miscounted and undercounted, and those who are less likely to respond, especially those without internet access and those with children.

We must do a better job getting ourselves and those we know counted. There’s so much money at stake, and funding is largely or partly determined by census data when we experience disasters like Hurricane Laura. Look at how often we've been through disasters affecting every part of the state, hurricanes like Katrina and storms like north Louisiana's tornadoes.

U.S. Census Bureau officials will have a final count when the official counting period ends on Sept. 30 and the strictly internal tabulating continues. They’re counting on us to self respond by mail, phone or online.

Louisiana has to stand up.