Georgia ranks near bottom in census participation with deadline less than 2 weeks away

SOUTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — The deadline for the 2020 Census is less than two weeks away and Georgia runs the risk of being one of the most undercounted states in the country.

Channel 2′s Matt Johnson learned that Georgians rank near the bottom when it comes to people filling out the census, and local leaders say it’s important that residents change this.

“We’re in an urgent situation here in the state of Georgia,” Gov. Brian Kemp said. “During the pandemic, it’s not been at the forefront of people’s mind, but it’s really important.”

Georgia ranks in the bottom five states when it comes to households counted. Officials like the governor want people to know what’s at stake before the Sept. 30 deadline.

“Medicaid, long-term care facility funding, transportation projects," Kemp said. “The more representation that we have in Congress, the more people we have fighting for those dollars.”

U.S. Census Data shows that 87% of the population in Georgia has been counted. That’s 48th out of the 52 states and territories.

Sixty-one percent of the state self-responded to the census, which is also below the national average. It’s estimated that a city loses $20,000 over a decade for every person who’s not counted.

“Time is running out,” Marilyn Stephens with the US Census Bureau told Johnson.

Stephens said the usual door-to-door census taking has been limited due to COVID-19 pandemic. But it’s all hands on deck for the final days.

“We really want people to self respond, but right now, because we’re knocking on their door, we’re saying to them co-operate with the enumerator,” she said.


Cities like East Point and plenty others in metro Atlanta have put together census events for communities all year. In College Park, its 44% self-response rate is the lowest in Fulton County.

“it is definitely a gap in understanding,” said College Park resident Blake Stoner.

Stoner has worked with the city on census events through his organization Vngle. When he’s in the community, he said there could be even more outreach.

“Some people, yeah is a distrust in government overall,” Stoner said. “The overarching thing is that people don’t really understand what the overall purpose of the census is.”

New businesses, new jobs, new infrastructure, senior citizen housing and school class sizes can all depend on census data.

Once the Census Bureau has its official count, the federal government decides how to split up $1.5 trillion.

“So you get that number wrong, and it’s just going to be a 10 year period of having to deal with that wrong number,” said Michele NeSmith with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.

The Census Bureau had extended the deadline through the end of October but recently pushed it up to the end of September. Cities with areas considered hard to count said the extra time would have helped.

“It’s like you’re sitting here and you’re trying to do what you can based on what you’re given and people still throwing stones at you,” South Fulton Mayor Bill Edwards said.

An extension is possible, but Gov. Kemp said there’s no need to wait.

“We can’t rely on an extension,” he said. “I would tell people this, let’s do it, do it now.”

The fastest way to fill out your census is visit https://my2020census.gov/. But Internet access isn’t everywhere in Georgia, especially in rural counties. Check your mail for one of many letters you received and be prepared for someone to likely knock on your door by next week.