Cape Fear could lose federal funding if residents fail to participate in 2020 Census

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — From highway projects to head start programs, the 2020 Census determines how billions of federal dollars will flow into the Cape Fear region.

WWAY wanted to know if the coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted census response rates in our primary coverage area which includes Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Pender and New Hanover counties.

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Time is running out. The deadline for completing the census is September 30.

“All of our field operations will be completed and that’s the last day that residents can self respond,” Assistant Regional Census Manager Marilyn Stephens said.

According to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, as of the end of August, the statewide response rate is 60.7% which lags behind the 2010 response rate of 64.8%.

In Brunswick County, the current response rate is 51.5% but the 2010 response rate was slightly higher at 53.6%.

The county in the Cape Fear region with the lowest response rate is Bladen at 46.8% which is close to the number 10 years ago (46.9%).

In Columbus County, the 2020 response rate is 50.1% but it was nearly eight percentage points higher in 2010 at 57.9%.

New Hanover County has the highest response rate right now with 61% but this number lags behind the 68.5% response rate in 2010.

In Pender County, the 2020 response rate is 55.5% but it was much higher at 62.6% in 2010.

“We must account for every household in the nation–all 100%,” Stephens said. “When we listen to those participation rates thus far, that means we must follow up with all of the other households that have yet to self-respond.”

The only way America knows what America needs, she says, is by taking part in the 2020 Census.

“We get once a decade to do a reset for representation and resources,” she said.

But there are also major political ramifications when census response rates are low.

“I hear it every time I am in North Carolina, people are saying we came so close to getting an additional Congressional seat, but that only happens if everyone is counted in every household in the state,” Stephens said. “We are following up by knocking on doors and we want you to self respond.”

One reason why some may be hesitant to respond to the census involves privacy concerns but Stephens says your personal data is protected by two laws.

“One [law] says census data is sealed for 72 years, the other law says no one can get your answers–no law enforcement, no police, no IRS, cannot be subpoenaed by the courts or the President,” she said. “It’s the law, your census data is protected,and do not be afraid to participate in the census.”

Visit for more details about the 2020 Census.