Butler County making push to count residents with deadline looming and funds on the line

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

With one month until the final 2020 U.S. Census deadline, some Butler County officials are concerned about pockets of low response numbers because federal funding is on the line.

When the coronavirus pandemic sent Miami University students packing last spring, the county’s census count suffered. In 2010 the census tract that includes the university had a 77.7% response rate, but for this year, the response rate is 7.6%. As a whole, Oxford’s response rate is 52.9% compared to 67.1% in 2010.

County Development Director David Fehr, who is in charge of the county’s census effort, said uncounted residents gave a big impact on federal funds the county and its various jurisdictions receive.

“In Butler County we were told we could lose roughly $1,800 per person in federal funding for each person we don’t get counted,” Fehr said. “And we don’t count again for another 10 years so it’s a big financial impact if we don’t have a correct count, because money is dependent on population. So it’s a big deal.”

ExploreCensus 2020: Why this year’s count is critical for Butler County’s coffers

The census determines the number of Congressional districts in each state and helps determine how much communities and states receive of nearly $700 billion per year in federal and state assistance.

Fehr said prior to the current health crisis the 10-year head count always ended in April but the U.S. Census Bureau extended the deadline to the end of October. The new deadline is Sept. 30. The national return rate is 64.7%, the state is at 68.9% and 71.7% of Butler County residents have responded to the federally required population count. The response rate in 2010 was 72%.

Fehr said census takers are knocking on doors now if people have failed to respond. Three Census 2020 Complete Count committees have been working countywide to ensure every head is counted.

According to Oxford City Manager Doug Elliott the city and Miami are “doing our best” to get the absent students counted.

“The university has been reaching out to the students, the city has been doing some PR as well, every time I give a speech or at council meetings mention that, " Elliott said. “I you haven’t filled out the census please do.”

The census tracks where people were living as of April 1 and that poses another issue with the Oxford numbers, according to Elliott. He said students weren’t living in the dorms on April 1 because Miami cleared the campus.

“It’s a tough situation because of the students weren’t here on April 1st, do they get counted at home,” Elliott said.

A release from the Census Bureau stated it has reached out to all universities and colleges asking for a roster of all off-campus students.

“The census counts people where they live and sleep most of the time, and that includes college students,” the June release stated. “With many students having left their college campuses because of school closures before census questionnaires were delivered, the Census Bureau needs help counting students where they would have been living and sleeping as of April 1, 2020.”

There are several things important to know about the U.S. Census

The census is mandated by federal law, everyone is required to take it.

Census responses are completely confidential and will not be shared with any third parties such as police or any other entity.

Butler County stands to lose roughly $1,800 per head in federal funding for every person not accounted for in the census.

The census forms are available at: https://2020census.gov/en.html

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