West Alabama's census response rates continue to lag behind the rest of the country in the most recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Alabama is in last place with an 85 percent enumerated (self-response and enumerated in non-response follow up) response rate. All 50 U.S. states plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico are included in this metric.

Tuscaloosa County is tied for No. 25 in the state with just over a 60 percent self-response rate, with counties such as Greene, Sumter and Marengo all falling below 50 percent.

"Right now in Alabama, we're seeing about 62.5 percent of people responding to the 2020 census so far and you're just at what was what we saw in the 2010 census, but we really want to beat that 2010 rates," Virginia Hyer, chief of the Public Relations branch at the Census Bureau, said.

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Hyer said the census will determine how much federal funding is given to Alabama for the next 10 years since it is based on the state's population. Programs such as health care, housing assistance, education and infrastructure will be affected in some way by this data.

"The census impacts our congressional representation at the national level, but it also affects our representation in our state legislatures, and that's all based on population counts that come from the 2020 census. So, if you want to be accurately represented, you need to fill out the census," Hyer said.

In order to mitigate this, The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama is encouraging employers to give their employees time during the day to complete the census. Some ideas include allowing for a 10-minute break during work hours to let employees to take the census, as well as facilitating team meetings to help workers understand the importance of the task.

"We are working to break down any barriers for those completing the census," Donny Jones, Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama Chief Operating Officer and West AlabamaWorks! Executive Director, said. "We feel that encouraging employers to give their employees time to take the census is a perfect opportunity. Employees may not have time to respond at home, or they may not have reliable internet at home."

Residents have until Sept. 30 to respond to the census by phone, mail or online. For more information or to participate in the census, check out the U.S. Census Bureau website here.

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