With less than a week to go before this year’s scheduled Sept. 30 end of counting for the 2020 Census, about 91.8 percent have been counted. Even so, in the ranking of state response rates, Louisiana’s has fallen from third lowest more than a week ago to second lowest now.
Louisiana’s overall response rate to the census increased from 85.4 percent on Sept. 15 to 91.8 percent on Sept. 23. But every other state improved its total response rate, too.
Across the United States, the response rate is 96.6 percent. West Virginia leads the national rankings with 99.9 percent of its population counted, followed by Idaho at 99.8 percent and Hawaii at 99.7 percent.
The only state with a worse response rate than Louisiana is Alabama, which has a 90.5 percent response rate.
Because so much federal funding is based on population numbers, state and local officials across the country, including Louisiana have expressed worry of an undercount and have encouraged the state’s residents to make sure they participate so that Louisiana won’t lose out on funding.
The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice pointed out in a recent press release that the census count “determines how $1.5 trillion in federal funds are distributed for things like schools, roads, healthcare, and disaster relief and recovery. Every Louisianan who goes uncounted costs the state more than $2,200.”
The count doesn’t only determine how much funding Louisiana gets; it also determines how many people Louisiana sends to Congress and where congressional lines are drawn. Before the 1990 Census, Louisiana had eight congressional districts but lost one because of population decline. Following the 2010 Census, Louisiana lost another congressional district to bring down to six the total number of representatives it sends to Congress.
In a Tuesday, Sept. 22 press conference, Gov. John Bel Edwards stressed how important filling out the census was for the state.
“The census information, at the end of the day, is going to drive an awful lot of funding from the federal government to Louisiana,” Edwards said. “And so if we want federal dollars coming back here in the amounts that we deserve, we all need to respond.”
“We really need people to respond,” Edwards said.
Residents who haven’t yet responded can mail their questionnaires in, call 844-330-2020 if they’re English speakers or visit 2020Census.gov. Non-English speakers can find the number to call at this link. Marilyn Stephens, assistant regional census manager in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Atlanta office, said in an interview earlier this month with the Illuminator that 2020 is “the first census where we’re supporting 12 non-English languages online and by phone.”