ON JAN. 13, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott opened his weekly video address by saying, “Over the next few months, you’re going to hear a lot about counting.” He wasn’t kidding; the U.S. Census Bureau’s $500 million ad budget for the upcoming 2020 Census. practically guaranteed as much. However, it’s important to note that those efforts had started well before January: As Gov. Hutchinson said on Aug. 28, 2019, when he issued Executive Order 19-12 establishing the Arkansas Complete Count Committee, efforts to count everyone possible had already been underway for years. This is because, as both Mayor Scott and Gov. Hutchinson stressed, much of the state’s funding derives from that tally (close to a billion dollars for every 1 percent undercounted, or roughly $3,000 for each individual, could be at risk).
In the months leading up to the official Census Day*, the public-relations machine has been running at full steam. Nonprofits and community groups such as the Arkansas Food Bank and Arkansas United have staged workshops at sites as diverse as community colleges and chicken plants to help community members get the word out (or #GetOutTheCount).
Even during the COVID-19 crisis, an effort is still being made to reach hard-to-count residents in the digital sphere, (though knocking on doors is pretty well out of the question). Although it’ll be some time before we know the final numbers, every little bit counts.
*Census Day is something of a misnomer, as the count started on Jan. 21 in Alaska.
** “Although the territory had not yet been established, census data are available for Arkansas beginning with the 1810 census (as part of Louisiana Territory). … The population of the entire legally established Louisiana Territory (of which the area of Arkansas was a part) in 1810 was 20,845.”
For more information, visit my2020census.gov