SHERIDAN — The 2020 Census official count day is still 11 months away, but Sheridan County groups and government agencies met Thursday to start formulating a plan for the upcoming year of counting.
The Response Outreach Area Mapper — a geographic information system map developed to make it easier to identify hard-to-survey areas, according to census.gov — estimates Sheridan as one of the most well-reached areas of the state.
Similarly, Laramie and Park counties also have higher response scores based on 2012-2016 estimates.
The ROAM mapping system records in Sheridan County a predicted average of 17.4 percent mail non-response rate for the six tracts that lie within the county bounds. Tracts are determined by population, fitting around 4,000 people in each one. The least successful tract in Sheridan County — tract 6 that spans most of the western half — recorded a 19.8 percent mail non-response rate. The most successful recorded a 15.7 percent mail non-response rate in tract five, which spans the entire eastern portion.
Wyoming’s counties fared well for estimated responses, but a few tracts in Rock Springs had response scores as high as 25.2 percent. A section of Teton County recorded 28.8 percent low response rate and the lowest in the state.
Responses are integral for funding availability through federal grants for local municipalities. Partnership Specialist for the Dallas Regional Census Center Stephanie Freeman said population and collected census data often translates into more or less grant opportunities for the state, county and respective municipalities. Mayors from each municipality in Sheridan County — Dayton, Ranchester, Sheridan and Clearmont — attended the first meeting Thursday. Other agencies, including representatives from Sheridan College and other school districts, the Sheridan YMCA and the library, among others, sat in to hear how they can help facilitate positive responses for the upcoming 2020 Census. Freeman said the census gathering happens in five set stages: education, awareness, motivation, reminder and thank you. The country is currently rolling out its education phase, which gathers local people together to start talking about census committee creation before implementation occurs.
The second is the awareness phase, when local census committees are expected to be the informers, sharing information and resources with community members who need to fill out the census forms and mail-in the responses or complete the surveys online. Phase three, the motivation phase, is in March and April of 2020 and is meant to encourage and excite citizens to actually fill out their census forms and return them.
Phase four initiates the reminder phase, to last from May to July of 2020, to encourage those who have not completed the census surveys to do so before the deadline requested on the forms or by those completing the surveys face-to-face in canvassing. The fifth and final phase is the thank you phase, from August to December, which recognizes all that helped in the process of acquiring and encouraging citizens to participate.
Questions about the process regarding college students, homeless members of the community and citizens who do not own or live in a traditional household with a traditional address were discussed in Thursday’s meeting. Freeman responded, saying that people will canvass and specifically visit areas indicated as those for homeless or other non-traditional populations to record survey results. Those who have two permanent residences — like snowbirds or college students — will respond and indicate their place of residency in the location where they spend the majority of the year.
Those canvassing areas, preparing communities to answer surveys and providing outreach are mostly unpaid volunteers; no financial backing has been provided by the current administration for the 2020 Census. The stimulus package allocated funds to help gather surveys for the 2010 Census.
While the census count is still a while away, entities are gearing up to make Sheridan County one of the most responsive in the nation.