On September 30, all activities to collect responses for the 2020 Census will end. Census workers were in the field for less than two months, so the responses from households online or by phone became more important. The self-response rate for the state of Arkansas is 60.1 percent and Hot Spring County’s rate is 61.1 percent. The census is conducted once a decade and the results impact local government, hospitals, schools, fire departments, senior centers, daycare centers and much more for ten years.
Getting a complete count is important, not only in terms of federal and state funding to the county but also to representation at both the local, state, and national level. An estimated $3,300 a year is lost in federal dollars to the state for every man, woman and child not counted. An undercount of only 1,000 people will mean a loss of $33 million over the next decade.
Anyone in a household can respond for the whole household and has only days to do so. Individuals can respond online at www.my2020census.gov or by phoning 844-330-2020. If a census worker comes to the house, residents are encouraged to cooperate and respond immediately.
The self-response rate in Hot Spring County is higher than all counties in south Arkansas but is lower than most northern counties. Benton County has the highest rate in the state at 69 percent. This will mean that when legislative districts are reapportioned once the census numbers are finalized the southern half of Arkansas will likely lose legislative seats. The fourth Congressional district is also likely to be larger. A more accurate count of households, not just those that were counted, will mean a fairer legislative makeup.
Hot Spring County Judge Dennis Thornton established a Complete Count Committee and the Malvern-Hot Spring County Library received a grant to work with the committee in promoting the Census. Before the pandemic, members of the committee spoke to civic groups and hosted a county-wide census summit. Once activities were constrained, material was distributed through the meal programs at all county school districts. Drive-by events were conducted, posters and material were distributed at the courthouse and health department. Flyers were included in commodities distributed by the Central Arkansas Development Council. Ads were placed in the Malvern Daily Record and on Facebook. Thousands of emails were sent encouraging households to apply.