COVINGTON — In the 2010 census, Newton County’s population was tallied at 99,958, just 42 people shy of the 100,000 mark. That margin of 42 people translated into a loss of thousands of dollars in federal funding, something the county wants to avoid in the 2020 census.
The Newton County Community Partnership, in collaboration with Georgia Family Connection, is leading the charge to make sure that every Newton County resident is counted in the 2020 census.
Laura Bertram, executive director of the Newton County Community Partnership, told county commissioners last week that her organization is working with the Georgia Family Connection Partnership to establish a Complete Count Committee to work toward counting all residents. The committee will be appointed by commission Chairman Marcello Banes.
Bertram said the goal of the committee will be to gather as many community partners as possible in order to educate residents on the importance of completing the census. Bertram said the effort will involve all levels of the community — from government to churches, businesses and neighborhoods.
“Getting an accurate count is vital to the continued success of our state,” said Bertram. “It determines the way representation and resources are distributed.”
Bertram said for every person counted in Georgia in the 2010 census, the state received $2,300 annually.
Furthermore, Bertram said 100,000 is a federal population benchmark for allocating a greater percentage of federal dollars to programs like highway planning and construction, Women Children and Infants benefits, Head Start, school lunch programs, foster care services, and more.
“If we can hit this mark, the county will reap benefits for 10 years,” she said.
Bertram said an accurate count is particularly important for children, because federal funds can be used to subsidize tuition for child care and pre-school programs for underprivileged children.
“Children are the ones that lose the most, and they are the ones least likely to be counted,” she said.
In the 2010 census, Newton County achieved a 75% mail return rate, compared to the state rate of 77.2 percent, said Bertram. That rate was less than the 2000 rate, she said.
Bertram said an important part of the work of a Complete Count Committee will be to encourage residents to participate in the census. Population groups most likely to be undercounted are those who are young children, low income, or homeless. The census tract in the county that is considered hardest to count is on the western side of the county, where the mail return rate for the 2010 census was less than 73%.
“Relationships will make the difference in getting people to participate,” she said.
Bertram said she already has the support of the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce and the Newton County School System. At the state level, her organization is partnering with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, the Georgia Municipal Association, Voices for Georgia’s Children and the Latino Community Fund Georgia.