Census participation lagging across WNC

  • Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor is encouraging all Macon County residents to fill out the 2020 census.
    Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor is encouraging all Macon County residents to fill out the 2020 census.

Macon County has a problem with its census, and the problem is not everyone is responding.

Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic’s social distancing restrictions, combined with trying to count undocumented and part-time residents, census takers are having a difficult time completing their in-person interviews, according to Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor. 

“Highlands, Macon, Jackson County and all of Western NC is behind in their reporting,” Taylor said on Tuesday, “And I’m concerned we are going to miss out on some funding opportunities because we aren’t going to get as accurate a count as we could get.”

Presently, Macon County has had about 33 percent of its population respond to this year’s census. 

“We need to do better,” Taylor said.

Taylor noted that there had been talks about extending the census deadline to tax filing day, April 15, 2021, but the current administration has set the deadline for Sept. 30. 

“Everybody who lives in Highlands needs to be counted,” Taylor said. “That includes citizens and undocumented individuals as well. They need to be counted also.” 

The U.S. Census Bureau has until Dec. 31, 2020 to repord its completed census, which will require a Sept. 30 deadline to complete the enumeration process of the census taking, which began Aug. 11. 

“Individuals can respond to the census survey either online, by mail or face-to-face,” Mike Poston, Jackson County Planning Director and U.S. Census representative. 

Highlands current population count stands at 535, which in the census taking process, means Highlands is halfway there. 

“Highlands’ population during the 2010 census was between 900-1,000 people,” Taylor said. “We’re on track to have that many residents again in 2020.”

Taylor said the potential impact on Western North Carolina counties could be huge if every eligible person does not get counted in this year’s census.

“I have encouraged all Highlanders and Macon County residents to respond to the census,” he said. “What is interesting will be the number of fulltime residents in the town limits. In past censuses, that number has been steadily between 900 and 1000. I suspect that will be the case for 2020.”