Rocky Mount Councilwoman Chris Miller recently put what could be described as the $64,000 question about the 2020 U.S. Census to city Human Relations Director Archie Jones.

“We have areas within the city where it’s known that there are folks living who are less friendly to authorities. Is that factored into the planning?” Miller asked. “That was the most tactful way I could think to say it.”

Jones replied, “This is one process that the U.S. government does that’s totally private.”

The 2020 U.S. Census website states that, by federal law, the U.S. Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about a person, a person’s home or a person’s business, even to law enforcement agencies.

“The U.S. government just wants to count the number of citizens that are in this country,” Jones said of the process that occurs every 10 years.

Miller said, “I know we know that, but not everybody necessarily believes that.”

Jones emphasized the importance of community outreach by the municipal administration as part of the 2020 U.S. Census to make sure everyone in Rocky Mount is counted.

The city’s Human Relations staff was appointed to represent Rocky Mount in working with the governments of Edgecombe and Nash counties on the 2020 Census.

Jones spoke and fielded questions about the 2020 U.S. Census at Monday’s City Council work session.

The census is key in providing the basis for re-apportioning congressional seats, redistricting and distributing more than $675 billion in federal funds annually to support state, county and city programs.

That affects education, employment, health care, housing, transportation and public policy.

Data that Jones provided to the City Council illustrated the importance of the situation in the Rocky Mount area:

  • A 2000 city population of 55,893, increasing to 57,477 in 2010 but decreasing to 54,242, according to the 2018 Census estimate. That estimate reflects a 5.6 percent drop.
  • A 2000 Edgecombe County population of 55,606, increasing to 56,552 in 2010 but decreasing to 52,005, according to the 2018 estimate. That estimate reflects an 8 percent drop.
  • A 2000 Nash County population of 87,420, increasing to 95,840 in 2010 but decreasing to 94,016, according to the 2018 estimate. That estimate reflects a 2 percent drop.
  • A 2000 Rocky Mount metropolitan area of 143,026, increasing to 152,392 in 2010 but decreasing to 146,021, according to the 2018 estimate. That estimate reflects a 4.2 percent drop.
  • The numbers come at a time when North Carolina’s population as a whole is booming, from 8 million in 2000 to 9.5 million in 2010.
  • The 2018 estimate showed the statewide population at 10.4 million, which reflects an 8.9 percent increase.

Jones also showed a map of Edgecombe County to illustrate the southeastern side of Rocky Mount having been undercounted by about 28 percent.

The map also illustrated the eastern side of Rocky Mount having been under-countered by nearly 26 percent.

Among other items Jones showed, hard-to-count and undercounted groups include African-American men, African-American male renters, children, homeless people, minority families and Native Americans.

Jones showed African-American male renters from ages 23-33 in particular having been undercounted by 20 percent.

Jones said the city administration will emphasize using social media outlets, including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, as part of outreach efforts.

Jones also said plans are to post information on the city’s website and city television Channel 19.

He also said plans are to reach out to faith-based organizations, community organizations and neighborhood associations.

Jones said the verification of addresses was completed on Oct. 11 and that the actual counting processwill start roughly in the middle of March.

Jones said every household in the country will receive a 2020 Census form in the mail and that there will be follow-up mailings to encourage residents to complete the survey early.

Jones said April 1 is the date residents should have the forms completed.

He said census-takers in May will go knock on the doors of residences whose occupants did not respond.

“So as the saying goes, if you don’t want a visit, hopefully you will have completed those forms,” he said.