Make Your Census a Priority

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FMB Response Rate Low

The 2020 United States Census continues, despite the National Census Day of April 1 now almost two months in the our collective rearview mirrors. Fort Myers Beach, however, lags far behind most communities in its reporting percentage. As of mid-May, only 25.6% of all Fort Myers Beach households completed their 2020 Census, well below the United States average of 59%!

“I have absolutely no clue as to why this is,” said Fort Myers Beach Vice Mayor Rexann Hosafros, a member of the Lee County Census Committee, in frustration. “I keep trying to figure it out and coming up with possible reasons why islanders are so slow in their response, but it continues to mystify me. This is especially true this year, where the coronavirus pandemic restricted so many of us to our homes for weeks, with so much free time on our hands. Not only are we so far behind the national average, but the remainder of Lee County is 54% and the State of Florida is 57%, so it is difficult to justify why Fort Myers Beach trails in its response rate so badly. While Sanibel has nothing to brag about with a rate of just 36.8%, that is still much better than ours. Since there is a non-stop ‘Sibling Rivalry’ between our two island communities, I challenge our residents to complete their census and take the local lead!”

Further complicating the mystery is that it’s never been easier to complete a census form. “Fill it out online at my2020Census.gov,” related the Vice Mayor, “or over the telephone at 844-330-2020. Recently the Federal Government mailed your Census Form to every household yet to respond, so just fill that out and return it by mail. If you still do not do so, the next step is that the Census Bureau will send a representative directly to your address from June through August. I know that many tourism-related employees are looking for a job right now, so you can apply online to be a Census Taker at my2020Census.gov/jobs. I guarantee you will find it a lot easier than those who did the 1790 Census, when the federal government deployed 650 men on horseback to go door-to-door in the original 13 states!”

On top of everything else, completing your 2020 Census is easy and anything but time-consuming! “It is a much shorter process than I recall from the past,” said Hosafros. “I finished mine in three minutes; in fact, in preparation I poured myself a helping of my favorite snack – M&M’s – and I hardly had time to eat any at all!” It took this writer four minutes to complete his census form.

Historically Important Census

The Census allocates vital Federal funds to local populations that include quality-of-life necessities such as for emergency response, public safety, healthcare, schools, roads and public transit, housing, parks and many more essential programs, all based on an accurate count. The United States Constitution mandates that the nation perform a census every ten years to determine the number of seats every state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives and how the federal government allocates billions of dollars to state and local communities.

Scholars consider the most important census in American history to be from 1940, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” greatly expanded federal programs to battle The Great Depression. The theory is that the 2020 Census will rival that due to potential economic stimulus in response to the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the nation’s economy and unemployment rates.

“I feel that is so true that I wished I said that myself,” enthused Hosafros! “If we do not get a good census count and information for Fort Myers Beach, we may cost ourselves millions of dollars to rebuild our local economy and we will have no one to blame but ourselves! If you think these things do not matter, consider that Lee County just received almost $135 million in COVID-19 relief funds.”

She lists another essential reason for an accurate count. “There is the strong belief that Southwest Florida underwent a huge population growth over the past decade. If this is true, there is a strong likelihood we will receive another House of Representatives Congressional seat, and that is important for issues like water quality funding.”

For questions, information, or to complete your 2020 Census online, see my2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020. To track Lee County responses, see 2020census.gov/en/response-rates. Find additional information at  the U.S. Census Bureau Facebook page: bit.ly/isp182

“Please take a few minutes to complete your 2020 Census,” Hosafros concluded. “It will  benefit us all!”