Just 59 percent of Rappahannock residents have completed forms

Rappahannock County is fortunate — or so it hopes — that the 2020 U.S. Census deadline has now been pushed to October 31 from its original October 5 date.

After all, up to 40 percent of the county’s residents as of Tuesday still had not bothered to complete their census forms, which takes all of five minutes.

Should that remain the case, the dismal response rate will negatively impact federal funding to support Rappahannock’s two public schools, school lunch- and after-school programs; to county roads, senior centers and Medicare Part B.

It’s been determined that for every person undercounted in the census their local jurisdiction loses $20,000 in federal funding. For a household of five people in Rappahannock, that’s $100,000 that won’t be distributed to the county.

Added up, the data collected in the 2020 Census will inform the distribution each year of more than $675 billion in federal funds to states and local communities. County government officials hope that with the census deadline extended until Halloween more residents will do their civic duty and respond.

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 Thus far in 2020, 59.4 percent of Rappahannock County residents have completed their forms — doing so online, through the US mail, or by phone. While there is certainly a need for improvement, the so-called 59.4 percent “self-response” rate is a marked improvement if compared to some final census counts, including the 2010 U.S. Census when a mere 52.2 percent of county citizens felt the need to respond.

Residents who don’t respond on their own between now and October 31 will likely receive knocks on their doors from U.S. Census employees, who can assist them with their responses. The exact number of this so-called “non-response” group in Rappahannock won’t be known until home visits are completed.

County residents may also call 844-330-2020, where census employees are standing by to assist with form completions. Responses to the census are confidential, protected by law, and cannot be shared with law enforcement agencies, whether it be the FBI, Virginia State Police or the Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office.

Otherwise, the 59.4 percent self-response rate in Rappahannock compares to 71.2 percent of Virginians who have completed the 2020 census, which consists of only 10-questions.

For the current count, the census bureau has divided Rappahannock County into two tracts — a northern track and southern track. The census response rate for the northern track — Washington, Flint Hill, Huntly, Chester Gap — was 56.1 percent as of Tuesday. The response rate for the southern track — Amissville, Castleton, Slate Mills, Woodville, Sperryville — was 61.4 percent.

The good news is there’s still plenty of time to complete the forms.

“As a result of court orders, the October 5, 2020 target date is not operative, and data collection operations will continue through October 31, 2020,” reads a statement from the Census Bureau, which cited complications from the COVID-19 pandemic for extending the deadline.