Lovettsville Leads VA in Census Response

The 2020 Census count won’t wrap up until the end of the month but most enumerators in Loudoun have already completed a summer of door-to-door counting that is expected to help bring more than $70 million to Loudoun.

As of Oct. 2, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that more than 99% of American households in all 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico have been tallied, with 32.5% counted by Census enumerators and other field data collection operations, and 66.6% counted via responses online, by phone or by mail.

From those responses, 71.2% of Virginians responded on their own volition, placing the commonwealth sixth in that list of 52. Loudouners really helped to push Virginia atop that list, with 82.1% of the 413,500-resident population responding to the Census on their own volition—giving Loudoun the fourth-highest self-response rate among the commonwealth’s 95 counties and 38 independent cities, behind only Fairfax City with an 82.8% self-response rate, the City of Poquoson with an 82.6% self-response rate and the City of Falls Church with an 82.3% rate.

A decade ago, Loudoun’s self-response rate came out to be 75%.

And among Loudoun’s seven incorporated towns, 86.8% of Lovettsville’s 2,200-resident population answered, giving the town the designation of highest self-response rate in Virginia—a rate that, as of Oct. 4, was reported as being 0.8% higher than the next highest self-response rate, which was posted by the Town of Vienna.

Five of Loudoun’s seven incorporated towns made the top-20 list of self-response rates. Purcellville came in third in the commonwealth with a self-response rate of 85%. Leesburg came in seventh with an 80.8% rate. Round Hill came in ninth with a 79.8% rate. And Hamilton came in 17th with a 76.2% rate.

Middleburg ended up 104th with a 60.5% self-response rate and Hillsboro came in 114th with a 59.3% rate.

Combined, those responses—along with responses collected by enumerators, the numbers of which won’t be announced until next year—will prove important to the county and the services residents rely on.

The results of the 2020 Census will help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are distributed to local communities throughout the next decade. An accurate count also affects how legislative districts are drawn, and can impact the number of seats Virginia has in the House of Representatives.

Census Bureau Partnership Specialist Alvenia McQueen previously told Loudoun’s Complete Count Committee—which was formed to help get the county’s population counted—that each Loudouner not counted means $2,000 a year lost. This year, more than $675 billion a year in federal funding for local, state and tribal governments is at stake.

Loudoun Census Project Manager Stacy Whitehouse said George Washington University calculated the $2,000-a-year figure based on nationwide programs and local statistics. She said the federal funding Loudoun will get will help the county to primarily fund school programs, like meals, language needs and teacher training. She noted that the funding will also help the county pull itself out of the COVID-19 pandemic in the coming months and years.

Overall, the Census count is still ongoing across the nation. According to an Oct. 2 statement from the U.S. Census Bureau, “… data collection operations will continue through October 31, 2020.Employees should continue to work diligently and enumerate as many people as possible.”

That statement was ordered on Oct. 1 by U.S. District Court Judge Lucy H. Koh, who presides in the Northern District of California. Koh ordered the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the Census Bureau, to abandon a previously announced Oct. 5 stop date for field operations because the decision to end data collection so soon was “a hasty and unexplained change to the Bureau’s operations that was created in 4 days.”

But in Loudoun, enumerators have all but wrapped their work up after months of door-to-door rounds, which weren’t as necessary as they were in other U.S. jurisdictions thanks to the work of dozens of volunteers and Census Bureau workers who helped to encourage nearly 34,000 of Loudoun’s 413,500 residents to respond to the Census on their own.

With Loudoun’s self-response numbers already that high, the county currently stands to receive about $68 million from the federal government.

This year’s count was supported by the 20-person Complete Count Committee, which was led by County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) and Vice Chairwoman Nicole Acosta of the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties. It was created in April 2019 and tasked with getting as many Loudouners as possible counted, especially those in hard-to-reach and historically under-counted populations, including underprivileged residents and immigrants.

Whitehouse, who also served as the county staff liaison to the Complete Count Committee, said there were 19 areas in Loudoun where committee members and county staffers focused a good deal of their efforts, the top four being the Town of Leesburg; the area surrounding the Dulles Town Center, which, Whitehouse said, is historically one of worst-counted areas in Loudoun; the Sterling Park area; and the Middleburg/Aldie area, which, Whitehouse said, typically features a self-response rate in the 60s.

This year, Whitehouse said the household response rates in 15 of those 19 areas exceeded 2010 Census response rates.

Acosta, the director of Grants and Nonprofit Programs at the Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties, said the committee set an overall goal of counting 84% percent of Loudouners—a goal it will most likely exceed, given the data showing that more than 82% of county residents have been counted via self responses alone.

“We’re in good shape,” Acosta said.

Acosta said the committee was able to encourage such a high percentage of self responses because of the multiple subcommittees it set up to ensure there was enough outreach to undercounted populations. One of the tactics was to create campaign materials in at least six different languages.

“We wanted to make sure that we had more localized information to give out,” Acosta said. “We had one full year before the census opened [and] it took a good part of that year to get everything ready.”

Another method the committee used to reach as many Loudouners as it could was by partnering with more than 100 organizations. For instance, Loudoun Hunger Relief placed flyers in food bags reminding people how safe and easy it was to respond to the Census. The Loudoun Literacy Council also hosted classes for ESL students centered on why it’s important to be counted in the Census.

Loudoun County Public Schools also hosted numerous parent events before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, in which Complete Count Committee representatives were present to talk about the count. Social Studies teachers also taught their students about the importance of the Census in their classes.

“That was a great step,” Acosta said.

In all, Acosta said that aside from the committee having to work around COVID-related restrictions that canceled many planned events and other outreach efforts, the count went well, especially because the committee started work a year early, garnered help from many community organizations and had the full support of the Board of Supervisors and county staff. According to Whitehouse, upwards of 50 county staffers helped committee members reach as many residents as they did.

“Without that staff support, it would have been really difficult,” Acosta said.

Moving toward Oct. 31, the Complete Count Committee and county staff are working with their partners to ensure they provide yet-to-be-counted residents with resources they need to respond to the Census. Whitehouse said the county is also collecting feedback from those organizations describing how they feel the count went.

pszabo@loudounnow.com

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