2020 Census count will guide important funding for our region – and it’s needed now more than ever
By County Manager, Chris Coudriet
The COVID-19 pandemic has rescheduled, canceled and changed the course of most every event and plan in the past four months. The 2020 Census is among them.
It has pushed the Census timeline back a bit, but it’s still moving forward and it’s so important that every person in our county respond and be counted. The deadline to complete the Census is October 31 of this year, and the Census Bureau will be sending Census takers to homes who have not responded beginning in August. Right now, New Hanover County is at a 58.6% response rate. We have to do better. So if you haven’t already, please take the Census here.
I also encourage all of our businesses to push your employees to take the Census, no matter if they live in New Hanover County or elsewhere. The main focus is to have everyone counted. You can include information on your employee intranet or in an email to your employees – whatever your main form of communication is with your organization, I hope you will push this important message.
The Census determines numerous outcomes for our county including the federal funding we receive, political representation we have in Congress, and it informs the data used to make decisions for the next decade.
Most recently, the amount of CARES Act Funding to New Hanover County for COVID-19 expenses was distributed based on Census data. The county used $1.3 million of our portion of CARES Act funding to provide $10,000 grants to 130 small businesses in our area. If we had more funding, we could fund even more businesses and help even more people in our community. That is the impact of the Census.
Outside of COVID-19, every year the federal and state government use Census data to determine how to allocate and spend more than $675 billion of dollars for critical public services like public transportation, schools, roads, and so much more. Business also use Census data to determine the best locations to grow, expand, and create jobs. And New Hanover County Government will use the data for our public safety agencies, emergency preparedness, long-range planning, workforce housing needs, health and human services, master aging plan, and much more.
In 2010, the population estimate in New Hanover County was 202,683; in 2018, that estimate rose to 232,274 people. Our population is even higher than that now, and we need to make sure we are on record – that we are counted – so that we can receive the federal funding we need for our citizens.
North Carolina also has an opportunity to gain more members of Congress as a result of this Census. An accurate count would help ensure we have more representation and additional influence at the federal level, and ensure that congressional districts, state legislative districts, and school districts accurately reflect our community.
And then there’s the all-important metropolitan statistical area (MSA). Wilmington’s MSA currently encompasses New Hanover and Pender counties, but the goal is to bring Brunswick County back into our MSA. It was removed in 2013 by the US Office of Management and Budget based on 2010 Census data, but we know a majority of Brunswick’s residents come across the bridge and commute to work in our county.
The central and northern portions of Brunswick County, including Leland, have seen tremendous growth, and that data is critical to capture in the 2020 Census. It would help reinstate Brunswick into Wilmington’s MSA, which would benefit our entire region’s economic development opportunities.
Businesses make decisions based on MSA data like per capita income, spending patterns, workforce readiness and skills, and unemployment rates. It can be a deciding factor of whether they choose our region to relocate or establish their company. The right data from our MSA can tell a business if we are a viable place to plant roots. It can directly help to stimulate economic growth in our region. Bringing Brunswick County back into the Wilmington MSA is critical.
That’s why our team developed the Census campaign “Cape Fear Counts.” We want everyone in our Cape Fear region counted – so we can show an accurate representation of our area and help advocate and advance a change for our local MSA with 2020 Census data.
The county started early on working with the City of Wilmington and bringing our partners together to form a Complete Count Committee, to assist the U.S. Census Bureau with outreach and communication about the Census to our community. Since September of 2019, this 18-person Complete Count Committee, co-chaired by New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield Jr. and Mayor Bill Saffo, has helped to guide local efforts to ensure a complete count.
I appreciate their work, which – as we all know – has had to take on different forms over the past four months because of COVID-19. But they are working to reach every person in our community, and I challenge you to do the same. Talk to your employees, coworkers, friends, and neighbors. Ask them if they’ve completed the Census yet. Tell them why it’s so important.
There are three ways to take the Census: online, by phone, and by mail. You can learn all about our local efforts and view how many people locally have responded based on Census tracts at www.CapeFearCounts.com.
Thank you for helping to make sure Cape Fear Counts this 2020 Census.