Black Census Week aims to increase North Carolina's response rate

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- More than 55 programs in North Carolina are funded by the federal government, and unless every citizens in our state is counted, those programs won't be fully funded for the next 10 years.

So Wednesday, the North Carolina Counts Coalition held a food giveaway to use the opportunity to educate participants about the 2020 Census.

Durrell Johnson, director of outreach and communications for the coalition, approached many people picking up their free food.

"Make sure you take your 2020 census. If you haven't please go ahead and do so," he told the driver of one car.

Census 2020: From what it is to why it's important, here's what you need to know

He wasn't surprised that many people who showed up at this event had not only not taken the census but also didn't realize why it's important.

"We know the census serves the community," Johnson said. "We know that the programs serve a lot of people in the community. So if we don't count everyone, we can lose funding for those programs. So we want to make sure that we have every person accounted for so when it's time to get the resources from those programs, we have an accurate count."

The latest figures for North Carolina's census response rate is 57.7%--well behind the nationwide rate of 61.4%.

That means we are ranked 34th out of 50 states and Washington D.C.

And the largest minority communities in our state are even further behind.

Durham resident Doranely Valdez showed up for the food giveaway and said, "Our family is running out of work because of all this pandemic stuff that is going on. And we are in need of help of getting food for our families."

Once she heard the pitch about the census, she was on board, and even said she would spread the word.

"Yes, we are definitely encouraging other people," Valdez said.

Those were encouraging words for Johnson, whose message also includes registering to vote and being active in the community.

"We want to make sure that they're aware that this is the first step in the process," Johnson said. "So we're talking about being involved, building our communities, getting the resources to communities to have child care, food and nutrition programs, things of that nature. This is where it starts. So we want to make sure that we're attacking social justice from all angles and not from just one angle."

And if the social justice movement leads to more federal assistance for states, then a correct accounting of North Carolina's demographics will be even more important.
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.