Every Georgian counts: The push to complete the 2020 Census in Georgia

The billboards and ads have been plastered around Georgia asking people to fill out the 2020 Census. The push intensified in recent days because the deadline is October 5. But late Friday, that deadline changed.

An email sent to Census takers Friday discussing the development. It explained in so many words the October 5 deadline is currently being litigated. Because of that, data collection operations will continue through October 31.

That's four more weeks Georgians have to respond to ensure their communities don't miss out on federal funding for critical public services and resources.

More than 140 programs are impacted based on Census results. Resources like infrastructure, healthcare, emergency management, special education funding, early Head Start, social services like unemployment help. The government will determine how much of the $675 billion in funding will be allocated to that.

So, why has the response rate in Georgia been so poor compared to other states? First, the shutdown in the spring because of coronavirus really hurt efforts. Also, the Census is battling the mistrust some local communities have for the government.

"They are very concerned that if they give us their information someone can use it against them. So, we are working with the trusted voices, Mayor Bottoms, as well as the other mayors throughout the metro area, the governor's office, they have all been very supportive in putting out the information about the census is safe and secure and absolutely no one can get your census information and no one can use it against you," said Marilyn Stephens, Assistant Regional Census Manager, Atlanta Region.

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Census takers will be continuing to go door-to-door in neighborhoods and calling Georgians by phone to make sure they are counted. The downside is some will still think it is part of a scam.

Stephens said those contacted by phone will be asked the same questions on the 2020 Census like how many people live in the household, their names, ages and birthdays, and racial identification.

"I had a 92-year-old that called me and he was able to complete the form for five members in his household in seven minutes. And he said, ‘Am I finished? Can I do it again?’ And I said, ‘No.’ So if a 92-year-old can use his laptop and complete it in 7 minutes, that lets you know how easy it is," Stephens said.

The phone calls are not a scam so you won't be asked personal info like a credit card number or your social security number. Here's what else to look for if a census taker knocks on your door.

"We will have on a mask. A photo ID that was issued by the census bureau and the Department of Commerce… a very distinct black canvas bag with a huge white patch on it with the United States Census Bureau in Boston blue," said Stephens.

For those who have not yet filled out the Census can still go to 2020census.gov to complete the survey.

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