For every Blount Countian not counted in the 2020 census, an estimated $1,420 in state and federal funding is lost until the next 10-year head count, the University of Tennessee Municipal Technical Advisory Service Institute for Public Service reported.
In the 2010 census, an estimated 21% of Blount Countians weren’t counted.
To prevent such a deficit in numbers from being repeated, Blount County has rolled out a new resource for the 2020 census: Blount Counts.
Blount Counts, created in January by the Blount County Mayor’s Office after being approached by the U.S. Census Bureau, is a Complete Count Committee, a group established by local governments to help ensure the U.S. Census Bureau gets an accurate count of everyone living in an area.
“The Census Count Committee is to be the hub of getting the word out for all things census,” Amy Cowden from the Blount County Mayor’s Office said.
CCCs team up with local community leaders to raise awareness about the importance of the census.
Blount Counts consists of community leaders from Alcoa, Maryville and Blount County schools, Blount Memorial Hospital, Blount Geographical Information System and more. Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell chairs the committee.
“We’ve got a really diverse group of folks who hopefully can share the information,” Cowden said.
Prior to census day on April 1, the committee will meet to brainstorm ways to encourage the public to participate. At least one partnership specialist, a U.S. Census Bureau staffer who works with CCCs, will be present at those meetings.
June Iljana, Tennessee Media Specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, said there are more than 25 partnership specialists in Tennessee. According to Iljana, before working with established CCCs, partnership specialists reach out to communities to ensure that the committees are established throughout Tennessee.
“We’ve been working very hard to make sure we get a working committee in every county in Tennessee,” Iljana said.
As of now, there is one state and 87 CCCs.
This month, Gov. Bill Lee announced 38 appointees to the Tennessee Complete Count Committee, including Tim Kuhn, director of the Tennessee State Data Center.
Kuhn said that the goal of any workers with the decennial census, especially CCCs, is “creating a dialogue with trusted voices inside the community that can help convince people that are hard to count to plan to respond when the forms are mailed next March.”
Blount Counts intends to create this dialogue by attending community events and promoting the census within community groups, Cowden said.
Additionally, the committee elected to include census information on utility bills beginning next month.
Cowden said that utility bills struck the committee as a good opportunity to get information out to a large segment of the county.
Describing Blount Counts as a “liaison between the census and the public,” Cowden explained the committee’s primary goal is to help Blount County. One way, she said, that this is accomplished is by ensuring that the county gets all the funding it is entitled to by its actual population, Cowden said.
Federal programs include SNAP, WIC, Title 1 schools and Section 8 housing, which provide a variety of governmental assistance to low-income families and communities are all affected by the number of people recorded in the 10-year census.
“Anything that touches federal funding is affected,” Cowden said.
Blount Counts’ desire to help the community through disseminating census information is recognized by census leaders, Cowden said.
“These census folks come in and they said ‘Wow, you are really getting along,’” she said. “It’s just a great example of people loving their community.”