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The Census Bureau’s Non-response Follow-up Operation is well underway as census takers are knocking on doors of households that haven’t responded yet to the 2020 Census, and a group of local volunteers is trying to make sure everyone in Grady County responds to the national population count.
The group is calling itself the Grady Counts Committee, and they are coordinating places where people can go to receive assistance in filling out the questionnaire. So far, there are two public places providing routine assistance, Roddenbery Memorial Library and Cairo High School.
Every Tuesday through Sept. 20, the media center at Cairo High School will be open, 5 p.m. until 8 p.m., with assistants on hand to help people if they have questions about the questionnaire.
Also, Roddenbery Memorial Library is helping the public fill out the census, Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., Fridays, 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., and Thursday evenings, 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the Grady Room, according to committee spokeswoman Nola Daughtry.
Daughtry says yard signs will be posted outside each location during those hours to help guide the public to the right place.
“We are contacting and working with businesses and pastors of churches to share with their employees and members about the importance of every household being counted and the time sensitive time frame. We are asking them to allow their employees 10 minutes, once a week, to complete their census questionnaire until deadline of Sept. 30, 2020,” states Daughtry.
Local government officials say getting an accurate census count is important to Grady County residents.
“Grady County Schools receives federal dollars for Title 1, special education, school nutrition, ESOL, and migrant services. Part of this funding is based on the census. We need everyone counted so that we do not have to raise taxes and fund these services locally,” says Dr. Kermit Gilliard, superintendent of Grady County Schools.
The City of Cairo also gets federal support based on the census population count.
“A good census response is important to the City of Cairo because it provides future funding for public safety such as police and fire through grants and other funding sources,” says Chris Addleton, Cairo city manager.
John White, county clerk for the Grady County Commission, says, “The census is used to determine grant funding and state and federal allocations. That helps lower our taxes.”
The census numbers are also important to economic development, according to Julian Brown, executive director of the Joint Development Authority.
“When restaurants, grocery stores, retail stores and industry start looking at where to locate the first things they will look at are population and median income. Some companies will have no interest if the population is not high enough,” says Brown. “This census count is very important because both Grady County and the City of Cairo are near significant population marks. Cairo-10,000 and Grady County-25,000.”
The 2010 census had Cairo’s population at 9,607 and Grady County at 25,011.
As of Monday, only an estimated 49.7 percent of Grady countians had responded to the census questionnaire.
The deadline to respond is Sept. 30.
Field operations are taking place around the nation. Census takers have been trained to follow public health guidelines including wearing a mask, conducting interviews outside and practicing social distancing. Census takers are from the communities where they work.
In addition to answering the census online or by mail, people may complete it by phone by calling 844-330-2020.