Mid-South political leaders make push for census, say funding depends on everyone’s participation

Mid-South leaders stress importance of census

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris and Congressman Steve Cohen came together Monday to urge more people to return their census forms to ensure Memphis and Shelby County get the appropriate amount of federal funding for the next 10 years.

These three prominent Mid-South politicians say they aren’t satisfied with the number of people who have returned their census forms thus far and they say millions of dollars are on the line.

Strickland, Harris and Cohen held a news conference Monday morning with one message -- turn in your census form.

“This is an important civic responsibility,” Harris said. “This is civic responsibility at least as important as voting.”

“I don’t care what party you are, what religion you are, what race you are,” Strickland said. “You want to be counted, and we want you to be counted.”

WATCH: State and local officials talk US census deadline for Tennessee - clipped version

The reason these three politicians say the census is critically important is simple.

“The census equals money,” Strickland said.

How approximately $900 billion in grants, direct payments and loans provided by the federal government is divided nationwide is based on the responses from the census conducted once every decade.

Strickland says the current 2020 response rate from people in the Bluff City is at 54%, down from 67% in 2010.

“Our response rate is too low,” Strickland said.

“And it truly is a vote,” Cohen said. “It’s one big vote that you have to do every 10 years and everybody who sends in their census form is voting to give Memphis it’s fair share of money.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the ability of census workers to go door to door and get census forms returned.

These three political leaders say they plan to conduct a big push to urge as many people as possible to fill out census forms before the upcoming Sept. 3 deadline.

“I think these kinds of ways of getting the word out are going to be critical,” Harris said. “So I just think we need to keep on hammering this home.”

The census form only takes a few minutes to complete and is very simple.

You can mail in your census form or fill out your form online by going to 2020census.gov. The deadline is Sept. 30.

Strickland says you can also receive help getting and sending a census form at your local public library.

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