Andrea Surratt said the city of Sandy Springs is doing everything it can to get as close to 100% participation from its residents in the 2020 Census as its Sept. 30 deadline approaches. But despite those efforts, the city is still below its 70% rate from the 2010 Census, which was also under its expectations.
“We have a 62% collection rate,” Surratt, the city manager, said. “We’re making good strides on our Census counts being higher than most other cities in Fulton County. We have a few (north Fulton County) cities a little higher, and they are Milton, Johns Creek and Roswell. We still need to make some progress on that.”
Surratt and other city officials talked about its Census participation efforts at the Sandy Springs City Council’s Sept. 15 meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In April, Sandy Springs launched a Facebook challenge to encourage high Census participation, and since then the city has ramped up its efforts. Surratt said one area the city has had problems with on participation is residents living in apartments.
“We’ve been very actively promoting the Census through our social media (channels), particularly with our apartment communities in the north end,” Surratt said. “… We’ve placed 150 posters and banners (across the city) in the last 30 days. We’ve distributed 10,000 postcards in the apartment communities and installed street banners with a variable message board. … We’ve turned over every rock we can to get people to fill out the Census.”
In August the U.S. Census Bureau, which organizes the Census every 10 years, announced it was moving up the deadline from Oct. 31 to Sept. 30 to give its staff time to compile the data by Dec. 31.
For Sandy Springs and the rest of Fulton County, the stakes are high. District 6 Fulton Commissioner Joe Carn has said the county in the 2010 Census missed out on $3 billion in federal funding, which totaled $1 trillion nationwide, because Fulton was undercounted then.
Mayor Rusty Paul said he planned to talk with representatives of the U.S. Postal Service Sept. 16 in a virtual meeting set up through District 6 U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, and the Census is one topic of discussion.
“The Census Bureau has assured us that anyone living in Sandy Springs will be counted correctly, but how do we know if they won’t be?” Paul said, referring to problems he’s had with the postal service not recognizing Sandy Springs as a city. “… (The Census) has an impact on our schools, our city revenues, a lot of decisions our governments make, including state government, Congress and the city council districts. These are things that are not trivial.”
District 6 Councilman Andy Bauman added, “These issues with the post office and Census are interrelated. Our time is running short and we have a lot of challenges in Sandy Springs.”
Paul said his problems with the postal service extend well beyond the Census.
“A lot of our citizens are paying higher taxes as a result,” he said, referring to some Sandy Springs residents paying Atlanta taxes because the postal service classifies them as residents of that city. “We’re also going to talk about the delay in getting mail for some residents. Some citizens are getting mail only two or three times per week. … The delivery of mail is a fundamental requirement for the postal service.”