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It’s just about that time again to find out how many people are in the United States, and Polk County is getting organized to help the federal government get the job done efficiently.

Taylor Wilkes, the local partnership specialist for the Atlanta Regional Census Center, came to talk to the Cedartown Commission in August about efforts to organize and support efforts for the 10-year population count.

Rhonda Heuer, head of Polk Family Connections, will be the chair for Polk County’s committee providing education to the public about the importance of the census and what needs to be done.

“We plan on getting all these people together,” Wilkes said.

The first step will be a two hour workshop session where Wilkes said the committee will dig down into data about the previous census pertaining to Polk County, and what volunteers need to know ahead of the coming count.

“This will also be the first census that we’ve conducted online,” Wilkes said. “So rather than just getting a questionnaire, come March 12 people will be getting an invitation in the mail.”

Traditional options of responding to census questions by phone, mail or if questionnaires aren’t sent back in, eventually a visit from a census taker remain options for local residents to participate as well.

Polk County in 2010 responded well to the census, with an average response rate of 73 percent. In the year 2000, the response rate was 68 percent. Officials want to see those numbers increase for the 2020 count to as close to 100 percent as possible.

To get there, they’ve already partnered with groups like the Rockmart Homeless Initiative to help with counting people who usually don’t take part in the census, and seek partnerships with organizations like the City of Cedartown and City of Rockmart to help get the word out.

The City of Rockmart already formed their own committee locally that will report to the main committee for the county for outreach purposes.

Wilkes said the work to keep that response rate begins now with recruitment of volunteers to serve on the local committee with Heuer, with the hope of having people in place before year’s end and hold an education workshop.

The decennial census provides multiple benefits to the community locally and to the state and nation as a whole. Among the many different aspects the census count impacts Polk County are determining state house and congressional districts, the number of representatives for Georgia in Congress, funding for various programs and projects, and determining the growth rate for the county and state.

All information taken in from the census is only used to generate statistical information about the nation, and can’t be used against individuals in any way. By law, the data gathered by the U.S. Census for individuals and businesses remains confidential.

Wilkes, a Rockmart native, said that he was excited to help get the count underway next year in his home community.

Those interested in serving on the committee helping with education and awareness efforts can contact Heuer at rhonda@polkcouncil.com.

Anyone who wants to work for the U.S. Census next year can apply online at 2020census.gov/jobs.

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