Itawamba County supervisors are prepping for the upcoming national census.

On Monday, Rachaelle “Rae” Pounds, Partnership Specialist with the Atlanta Regional Census Center, spoke with supervisors during their regular bimonthly meeting to emphasize the important role the decennial head count plays in determining state and federal funding.

“All state governments, local governments and nonprofits rely on the information collected by the census,” she told supervisors. “The first census was done in 1790, and one has been done every 10 years since then.”

Data collected during the 2020 census will be used to determine the makeup of Itawamba County’s population, including income levels, race, gender, etc. This information is then used to determine the eligibility of state and federal grants.

Population data garnered from the census also has political implications, including determining seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. At the local level, county districts are drawn to have the populations within be as even as possible for the fairest representation. Itawamba County’s district lines saw some drastic changes in 2013 due to the results of the 2010 census, which showed population spikes in the second and third districts.

Pounds asked the board to consider forming a local committee to lead the upcoming count. She referred to this hypothetical group, which she said could be as large or as small as supervisors deemed fit, as a “complete count committee.”

Ideally, the committee would be made up of trusted people who represent the breadth of Itawamba County’s communities. As examples, she said the board might consider appointing a Hispanic member, someone who represents Itawamba Community College, and members of each local municipality.

“It’s as big as you want to plan or as small as you want to plan,” she said. “The goal is to make sure every voice is heard on April 1.”

April 1 marks the official start of the 2020 census.

This census year, people will be encouraged to fill out the census via an online form. Those who don’t will be visited in-person to try to collect household data, including the number and makeup of each person in a household.

Pounds said she will be able to train members of the count committee.

County leaders seemed receptive of Pounds’ suggestion and supported her statements about the importance of an accurate count. County Administrator Gary Franks said the 2010 census had some inaccuracies – Tremont, in particular, had a low response – that have affected the amount of federal dollars the county has received.

Pounds said the U.S. Census Bureua is making a concentrated effort to collect data from parts of the country that didn’t respond well last time.

Pounds called any efforts the county makes to improve the accuracy of the census a “win-win.”

“Remember, the ultimate goal is to get the word out,” she said.

5th District Supervisor Steve Johnson suggested tapping the local volunteer fire departments to help with the census.

“That’s going to affect the fire departments,” he said. “They ought to be really interested in getting those numbers up.”

adam.armour@journalinc.com Twitter: @admarmr

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