Local leaders urge census participation

CONYERS -- It's census time again, and census organizers want the public to know that the headcount is extremely influential in the future of Rockdale County.

Conyers Mayor Randy Mills and Rockdale County Commission Chairman Richard Oden officially proclaimed November Census Month in Conyers and Rockdale County. According to the proclamation, "more than $300 billion per year in federal and state funding is allocated to communities" based on census data. The results of the census also affect health care, community development, housing,

education, transportation, social services and employment. Numbers also dictate how many seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives and determine the redistricting of state legislatures and voting districts.

The survey is brief and easy, said Charlotte Gellert, who is volunteering to co-chair the 25-member Rockdale County Complete Count committee. Census forms will be mailed to homes in March and are due April 1.

It's "10 questions in 10 minutes," said Gellert.

Gellert and local government and community leaders have staged plans early to urge every household to fill out and return the federal headcount form. Throughout the next few months, Rockdale County Complete Count committee members will be going to businesses, grocery stores and "just all around," said Gellert, to raise awareness and clarify any concerns the public may have in supplying the government with personal information.

One of the issues Gellert said the committee will address is letting residents know the U.S Census Bureau is sworn to protect confidentiality.

"It's fast and it's easy and it's safe," Gellert said. "The Census Bureau won't release that information even under a court subpoena and doesn't share (the information) with any other government agency."

The big push is to get forms mailed back before the April 1 deadline. Those who do not mail back the forms after that point will have census representatives knocking on their door asking for the information.

"The county will start getting information back on areas that have responded very well to the mail-back and start identifying areas that might need a little more attention," Gellert said.

Depending on the mail-back response, there may be a need for the committee to plan more activities encouraging the community to respond to the census.

Rockdale's U.S. Census Bureau representative will be at the Tree Lighting event in Conyers Dec. 5, and Gellert said the committee has identified a couple of other community events in January and February it may try to attend.

"And, of course, the St. Patrick's parade, we might get a group together and march in the parade," Gellert said, adding that census representatives could make an appearance at the Cherry Blossom Festival in late March.

The group is asking for community partners "to help trickle down some of this information," Gellert said.

"We're hoping to get some partners and then they can then distribute the census information to their employees and their customers," Gellert said. "To be an active partner, a group could do just as little as displaying a poster and having census information available and talking about it with their members."

For more information, call Rockdale County's census representative Gloria Solomon at 770-866-3400 or Gellert at 678-231-4007.