ADECA Director Boswell urges Alabamians to push family, neighbors to respond to Census
Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) Director Kenneth Boswell on Friday morning provided an update on the state of Alabama’s Census response.
Boswell told Yellowhammer News that parts of the state’s Census response were going “really well,” but he continued to ask members of the public to urge their friends and family to fill out their Census forms.
ADECA is the state agency in charge of making sure Alabamians respond to the Census. The “Alabama Counts” branding they created can be seen on signs and advertisements statewide.
Boswell said that the influx of on-the-ground Census workers who began working in Alabama in August have markedly helped increase the number of respondents.
He confirmed to Yellowhammer that the August 15 start date for the workers in Alabama was as much as a month later than other states, but said that was a decision made by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Boswell, speaking to Yellowhammer over the phone, said he believes now that the Census workers are in the field, Alabama’s relatively low total response rate will increase rapidly.
An employee in the media department for the Atlanta office of the Census Bureau emailed Yellowhammer, “Due to the restrictions in place in many communities due to COVID-19, our no-response follow up operations were placed on hold for a time.”
The statement went on to say, “We did restart via a ‘soft launch’ in some communities in July, however in our region that was only a very small area in Louisiana. We began a broader operation on August 11 (including in Alabama) based on local and CDC guidelines. This phase in took place as areas around the region opened up, the timing guided by local authorities and public health officials.”
Boswell added that, to his understanding, California and other states had been able to have their Census workers enter the field early, but those workers would be winding down on September 15 while Alabama’s work will continue up to the last allowable day of data collection on September 30.
With regard to the ongoing Census effort in Alabama, Boswell said the state’s self-response rates “are going really well.” He also praised the workers now in the field collecting responses from households that did not return their materials.
“Since August 15, with the Census workers getting into the field, we’ve seen our numbers steadily increase,” Boswell told Yellowhammer.
“We’re not overconfident,” he added. “We are still strongly encouraging people to participate in the Census because of what is at stake.”
Yellowhammer asked Boswell what someone who recognized the importance of the Census could do to help their state.
The director replied that “people have more influence on their neighbors, friends and relatives” than his department or any other organization could.
In addition to the progress being made by the in-person workers, Boswell said the grant ADECA gave to a Birmingham-based organization named HICA has been helpful in reaching non-English speakers in Alabama.
The date by which Census workers must stop collection has been moved up by the executive branch of the federal government, though a federal judge recently complicated that decision.
Boswell told Yellowhammer that extra time “could have a positive impact” on Alabama.
“People still have 19 more days to fill this thing out,” Boswell concluded. “We’ve still got time to get these numbers where they need to be.”