City, state leaders stress importance of 2020 census for Shelby County

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The push to get everyone counted for the 2020 census is taking on a new sense of urgency and a new warning that Memphis could lose some of its political clout at the State Capitol.

“So, our fear is Shelby County will lose representation,” said Rep. G.A. Hardaway.

Democratic state lawmakers are sounding the alarm that Shelby County, the state’s largest county, could go from having 14 to 13 House seats if census participation remains low.

Related: Memphis-area leaders urge residents to fill out 2020 census

“From the amount of federal funding we will receive as a state and a city, to the amount of allocation of funding the city will receive from the state, and it controls our political districts,” said Sen. Raumesh Akbari.

Many admit the country’s once-a-decade population count hasn’t reached those who could benefit the most.

“Those populations are communities of color and those of lower socio-economic run of the ladder,” Hardaway said. “Those are the folks we have to convince to get your census forms done.”

But the census has been overshadowed by the pandemic.

“The COVID-19 crisis has exasperated all of that, because you’re not able to get trusted community folks on the ground normally, knocking on doors,” Akbari said.

The bigger picture is what it could mean for tax dollars.

“It’s going to help the poor community, the middle-class community if those numbers are good numbers,” Rep. Larry Miller said.

SCS board members say schools also benefit.

“Parents, when we think about public housing, when we think about dollars, and think about resources we need to support our families, the census counts,” said SCS board member Stephanie Love.

Filling out the census only takes minutes, but it can have long lasting impact on Memphis.

“I just urge everyone in Shelby County and all across this state to make sure that we are counted,” Akbari said.

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