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Census deadline approaching

Washington Parish residents have just a few more days left to respond to the 2020 Census.

The original deadline was Wednesday, Sept. 30, and as of Friday’s press time it was estimated that approximately 8 percent of the state of Louisiana’s citizens had yet to self-respond or be counted in another fashion.

However, a federal judge ruled late Thursday night that the deadline should be extended to Oct. 31. It was not immediately clear, as of press time, if the judge’s ruling would be appealed to a higher court.

According to the Census Bureau’s statistics, as of Wednesday, 59.5 percent of Louisiana’s citizens had self-responded to the census and another 32.3 percent had been recorded in either a follow-up visit or other means. The national “total enumerated” average was 96.6 percent, while Louisiana’s was 91.8 percent.

It was even worse in Washington Parish, where just 40.4 percent of all residents had self-responded to the census as of press time — compared to 59.5 percent statewide. The national self-response rate was 66.3 percent.

Washington was also ranked the 62nd parish out of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, in terms of self-response rate. Only Sabine (38.7 percent) and Tensas (31.3 percent) were worse.

Neighboring St. Tammany Parish (69.3 percent) was ranked second among all parishes, and Tangipahoa Parish (55.5 percent) was 32nd.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser is concerned because federal funding is based on the state’s census count. Nungesser noted that the last census failed to get an accurate count, so responding now is important.

“If you look back at 2010, after Katrina, we lagged behind the rest of the country as many residents were not back,” he said. “This is really the first time we really have to get a more accurate count.”

The census also determines representation in U.S. Congress and is used to draw up state legislative boundaries.

“If you remember in 2010, we lost a congressional seat because of the census, and that’s something we can’t afford,” Nungesser said.

Those who still have yet to respond to the census can do so easily online by visiting www.2020census.gov. Citizens can also complete the census by calling 1-844-330-2020.

There are 16 federally funded assistance programs that receive funding based on the census, and those programs affect everyone who resides in Washington Parish. They include free school lunch for all children in the parish, the Early Child Development — Head Start Program, Special Education grants for school programs, Housing — Section 8, Medicaid and Medicare, SNAP — the “food stamp” program, WIC, LIHEAP — Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program, SCHIP, AFDC — Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and Social Security and SSI (Supplemental Security Income).