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Preston commissioner urges response to U.S. Census

KINGWOOD — How is it people can take time to vote in an online poll that named Preston High’s football helmet No. 1 in the state but can’t find the time to complete the census?

“This doesn’t just affect the person who’s got to fill it out. This affects their kids and it affects their grand kids, because it covers the next 10 years. So they’re basically throwing their own kids under the bus by not doing this,” Preston County Commissioner Don Smith said, as he gave the helmet comparison.

Smith, who reiterates at every Preston County Commission meeting the importance of completing the U.S. Census, points out that West Virginians need federal services, and many are based on population as determined by the census.

“Everybody complains about money. This costs us money, it really does,” Smith said.

According to the U.S. Census web site, as of Sept. 1, West Virginia had a 94.89% response rate to the census — second-highest in the nation, behind only Idaho. That number includes responses by mail, online, by phone and by responding to census takers going door to door.

Individual county and town response statistics are not as clear. Figures online for those categories do not include the door-to-door census takers, what the census calls non-responsive follow up.

Dreama G. Pritt, Partnership/Media Specialist with the census, said 2020 marks the first time state totals including the door-to-door totals were released before the end of the count.

In comparison to its total response rate, West Virginia has a 55.7% self-response rate. Preston County’s self-response rate is 59.5%; Monongalia’s, 60.2%; Marion’s 59.8% and Taylor County, 63.4%.

Federal funding that relies in part on census information includes highways funds, school lunches, the Headstart program, senior services, Pell education grants, CHIPS and grants for emergency services.

Pritt said “Census takers will continue to follow up in-person with homes across the country through Sept. 30 in an effort to reach everyone. Local census offices are constantly analyzing their workload. When the percentage of households who have responded reaches a certain threshold, any remaining households who have not responded are assigned to experienced individual census takers, who continue to attempt to contact that household as we strive for a complete count.”