'Critical': Black Mountain holds events to promote census completion

Ty Roush
Black Mountain News
The Black Mountain Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce held events Aug. 29, Aug. 30 to promote census completion.

As of Aug. 27, just under 62% of Black Mountain residents have responded to this year’s census, according to the Census Bureau website. In 2010, the self-response rate was 66.8%.

Sharon Tabor, executive director of the Black Mountain Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce, says she’s trying to boost her town’s numbers before the Sept. 30 deadline. 

“It’s critical,” Tabor said. “We don’t realize how much we depend on those funds (from the census) until they’re missing.”

The chamber held events Aug. 29 and 30 to support local census responses. The Aug. 29 event, hosted by the Broad Riber Fire Department, had seven in-person responses along with 50 online follow-ups, Tabor said.

An Aug. 24 statement by Gov. Roy Cooper says the state is at risk of losing $7.4 billion in funding because of an undercount. A complete count “could bring $1,823 per person per year in federal and state funds.” 

The bureau’s website adds that “more than $675 billion per year” is added for funds spent on “schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs.”

Tabor said Black Mountain should not risk losing these funds.

“Black Mountain has a higher than average population of retirees,” she said. “They are dependent on their Medicaid, and if there was an undercount, then it will impact those funds.”

Additional impacts include fewer grants available for police and emergency services, services for underprivileged and economically disadvantaged families and fewer fees for maintaining infrastructure, she added.

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The national self-response response rate is at 64.7%, whereas North Carolina ranks 37th at 60.6%. Buncombe County, also at 60.6%, ranks 33rd for the state.

Those feeling cautious about responding should feel otherwise, Tabor said.

“So many people don’t trust the government, and it’s critical that people understand that there is nothing on the census questions that tells anything about you other than your age, race and where you live,” she said. “They’re interested in headcount.”

As for filling out the census, “it’s nine questions, it takes less than 10 minutes and it impacts the next 10 years of your life. … It’s not invasive.”

Federal law requires the bureau to file all data by Dec. 31 of the census year. An initial April decision by the Census Bureau would have pushed the deadline to April 2021 but was later shortened to October this year by Congress.

The October deadline was shortened again to Sept. 30.

Tabor said completion of the census is vital to the future of Black Mountain.

“It has a huge impact on Black Mountain,” she said. “We get a lot of (Community Development Block Grants) to help with the greenways, park planning. … It determines the next 10 years of federal funding for this town.”

The CDBG program, enacted in 1974, provides funding to develop communities and expand economic opportunities for low- to moderate-income families.