Americans are close to the deadline to be counted as an American for the next 10 years, and officials are working hard to ensure that DeSoto County is properly represented.
Sept. 30 is the last day for citizens to be added to the population totals of the country, state, county, and locality. The date was moved up from the end of October at the request of the Trump administration, which said the President needed the results sooner to meet the Constitutional requirement to have the figures delivered to Congress by Dec. 31 of this year.
As mandated, the U.S. Census is conducted every 10 years, and there are many reasons for the Census.
DeSoto County Supervisor Lee Caldwell points out the Census will be a determining factor in where the government allocates money.
“This is going to determine monies for our fire departments and for our communities,” Caldwell said. “When federal dollars come in, it will depend on the population. We want to make sure all of our folks are counted, so we can equip them as they need to be.”
Another reason to hold a Census is to determine representation at all levels of government, Caldwell said.
“It will also determine the number of senators and representatives in Jackson we are going to have in the future,” said Caldwell. “At the county level, District 5 has grown exponentially, so we may need to have some of that area divided.”
DeSoto County Community Resource Director Christie Barclay, who is helping get the word out on the need to be counted, said not being included can become a costly proposition.
“Every person not counted is an estimated $50,000 lost over 10 years that you lose,” Barclay said. “If the Census were to end today, we (DeSoto County) would lose nearly $2.8 billion over 10 years. That money is going to go somewhere, so it should go to our facilities and our people.”
One area lagging in the return of the Census is in the extreme western part of DeSoto County, the areas of Walls, Lake Cormorant, and the Eudora area. Part of the reason is that the area lags in internet service, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, the online response has been the main source of returns, with fewer census-takers going door-to-door.
Those areas also have people struggling financially and some require food stamps to help pay for groceries. Food stamps don’t cover soap, however, and that’s where a partnership between DeSoto County and Buff City Soap, a local soap maker and retailer, hopes to “clean” that problem up and promote answering the Census at the same time.
Soap remnants from Buff City Soap are being distributed by the county to food pantries with a message encouraging people to fill out the Census.
“These are thin pieces of soap or the ends of our soap loaves that we can’t sell,” said Krista Penne-Myers, Buff City Soap Southaven franchise owner. “I wanted to make sure they went to people who might not otherwise have access to quality soap.”
The soap is being donated to the Sacred Heart Southern Mission food pantry, as that is in an area serving a lot of people having trouble making ends meet, Barclay said.
A message on each bar reads, “You count to Buff City Soap and DeSoto County: Make sure you count in the Census.” The message includes the three ways you can fill out the Census: online at my2020Census.gov, by phone at 844-330-2020, or by mailing the Census form.
In the last two weeks, DeSoto County has become the number one county in the state for answering the call to be counted. Officials would like that to continue for the above-mentioned reasons. But, a little county pride is at stake in a “battle” with another Mississippi county, Madison.
The counties are in a friendly competition to see which one rates higher on Sept. 30 when the Census ends. The losing Board of Supervisors must treat the winning group to dinner, “with all the trimmings.”
DeSoto County Administrator Vanessa Lynchard said, “We all win when everybody completes the Census, but we are hoping DeSoto County will win a little more.”
“This is another opportunity for Madison County to shine,” countered Madison County Administrator Shelton Vance. “While we all think very highly of our friends in DeSoto County, this is a contest where the trophy needs to go into our case.”
The national response rate for self-return is 63.8 percent. Mississippi’s self-response rate is 53.8 percent, which is below the 61 percent return rate when the 2010 Census was completed.
DeSoto County is currently first in Mississippi at a 70.1 percent return figure, followed by Madison County at 69.9 percent.