Tucker’s Census Response Could Yield Big Bucks for the City
According to the grading scale in our DeKalb County schools, a 65 percent is an F. Not an F+, not almost a D, but a failing, disappointing F.
In terms of the United States Census, however, 65 percent puts the City of Tucker right near the head of the class.
“The city of Tucker’s self-response rate is reflective of the efforts the City and community leaders have put forth to raise awareness about the 2020 Census and encourage participation,” said Will Powell from the United States Census Bureau. Noting that Tucker has already surpassed the response rate for what was then unincorporated Tucker in the 2010 Census, Powell added, “Much work has been done to ensure a complete count in the City of Tucker, and there is still much work to do.”
As of the last week of June, 65.6 percent of Tucker residents had completed and submitted their U.S. Census forms. That percentage puts Tucker well ahead of the state and national response rates, and ahead of nearby cities like Dunwoody, Chamblee and Doraville.
It’s no accident that Tucker has responded so well. Late last year, the City formed a Complete Count Committee comprised of Tucker residents. Their charge was to generate ideas on how to help spread the word about the Census and to influence friends and neighbors to do the same. The group met several times, coming up with innovative and engaging plans to drive Tucker’s Census response rate.
Then everything came to a crashing halt.
“On a scale of 1 to 10 in disappointment, I was a 10,” said Complete Count Committee member Linda Clark. “Everyone was on the same page, ready and excited. [It was] our first Census as a City. We expected to get close to 100 percent participation...then Corona reared its head and I knew the Census would probably [seem] unimportant to a lot of people.”
All of the plans, all of the preparation had to be scrapped due to the coronavirus outbreak. Organized outdoor efforts were shelved. Engagement at big community events became impossible. The community, in general, had much more on their collective minds than the Census.
When Tucker’s Complete Count Committee had to go on hiatus in March, one man continued making it his daily mission to get people to fill out their forms.
“Matt was the perfect leader,” Clark said. “He understood the importance of the Census, what it would mean to all families and to us as a city.”
Matt Robbins, Tucker’s octogenarian city councilmember, was a natural fit to lead the City’s Complete Count Committee. A retiree, Robbins remains active in a plethora of community groups. He also leans on his experience of 43 years working in the federal government to understand how important securing federal resources can be to a small city.
“This is my ninth Census,” Robbins reflected. “I see the effort of the Complete Count Committee to be so important as this is Tucker’s first-ever formal Census. As a seasoned resident of Tucker (here since 1980), I have a hand in establishing this important baseline for our future.”
When it comes to encouraging Tucker residents to take the Census, Robbins has been a whirling dervish of emails, social media posts and good old-fashioned face-to-face communication. His outreach over the past several months has educated thousands of Tucker neighbors about the Census.
“Matt has been the perfect person to lead our Census outreach,” said Tucker City Manager Tami Hanlin. “His efforts, as well as the efforts of the Complete Count Committee, are going to mean an influx of federal funds for our roads, our schools and hospitals here in Tucker and across DeKalb County.”
From a federal perspective, the Census outreach schedule was delayed due to the coronavirus. Door-to-door Census takers are just now being deployed, something that was supposed to happen back in the springtime. Deadlines have been extended and a final count now will not be delivered to the White House until April 30, 2021.
Still, as the U.S. Census team works here in the metro Atlanta area to get as many people counted as possible, they are hoping that those in Tucker who have completed the Census will not consider their work to be done.
“For those who have already completed their Census, we say thank you for helping to shape the future of your community, state and our nation,” Powell said. “As such, we encourage you to be a Census ambassador and help encourage your family, friends and neighbors to participate in the 2020 Census.”
“Tucker may be near the head of the class in its Census response, but the class isn’t being graded on a curve,” Robbins added. “I think we can get to 80 or even 90 percent response. Now that would be success.”
You can find out more about Tucker’s Census efforts at tuckerga.gov/census and learn more about national efforts at census.gov.