The Daviess County Complete Count Committee set a goal Friday morning. It expects 90% of the county's residents to complete the 2020 Census.

The challenge: Five census tracts on the west end of Owensboro have had response rates lower than 27%.

To address those areas, committee members plan to request assistance from community partners who have earned residents' trust -- for example, the Help Office, Salvation Army and churches -- in an area that stretches primarily from the Ohio River to Parrish Avenue and from Triplett Street to U.S. 60.

"A trusted referral and a trusted endorsement counts as much as anything," said Keith Sanders, committee chairman.

Counting every county resident is essential. It has been estimated Kentucky lost more than $2,000 per person who was not counted in the 2010 census.

To draw attention to the census, committee member Debbie Zuerner Johnson of Owensboro Health asked if a budget existed for hosting block parties in areas with low return rates.

The committee has funds for such events, but the real problem is manpower, said fellow member Chad Gesser.

To solve that problem, members suggested asking for help from large employers who often allow employees to help with countywide events. Johnson recommended contacting Volunteer Owensboro, an organization that matches volunteers with needed services.

The committee feels optimistic about one change in the upcoming census. For the first time, U.S. residents can be counted on the internet. Residents can fill in their forms at their office desks or on their cell phones.

Residents should receive an invitation to complete the census online between March 12-20.

To create awareness, Gesser said the committee plans to place ads on social media, and he asked fellow members to share the local census' Facebook posts on their own sites so messages can reach a wider audience.

"We are well-positioned, but we need to execute now," Sanders said.

Jaclyn Graves, of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, made a presentation about outreach efforts to date. She contacted utility companies to ask if they would place information about the census on their billing statements.

She plans to contacts school districts and local governments about sending messages via their one-call systems. Junior Achievement could prove useful when it comes to getting information to parents.

And, of course, chamber members will be encouraged to post census messages.

Members discussed the possibility of placing signs at Smothers Park, public events and high-visibility businesses, such as grocery stores.

Daviess County's no-response rate in 2010 was 18%, according to information on the local census website. By comparison, the Jefferson County rate was 24% and Fayette County was 25%.

Sanders feels Daviess County's committee has done a good job of building the infrastructure needed to increase awareness.

Persistence and redundancy will bring success, Sanders said. "It takes repetition, repetition, repetition."

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

(1) comment

Jarrod Booker

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