HOPE — Hope and Hempstead County have lost population since 2000, while the school-age portion of both populations has remained at more than a quarter of the total population. What that decline reveals for Hope, Hempstead County and the Hope Public Schools relative to the 2020 U.S. Census is the importance of every resident being counted.
Hope Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart understands the distinction first-hand.
“My team met a 17-year old at Hope High School with no place to call home,” Dr. Hart said. “She worked hard in her classes and studied diligently at a local homeless shelter, all while struggling to feed and clothe herself. Fortunately, we were able to step in and help.”
Federal funding through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Improvements Act allowed the school district to provide clothing, nutrition services and other support, he said.
“She went on to graduate among the top five students in her class, earn an associate’s degree and enroll in a four-year program at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock,” Hart said. “None of this would have been possible without the resources we received based on data from the U.S. Census.”
Current U.S. Census data shows the school age population of Hope at 30.4 percent of the total population, compared with 26.1 percent of the total population countywide. Census data for 2010 also shows 24.1 percent of the households in the immediate Hope area were female householders and 17.8 percent of those households included related children. The impact of an undercount on public education resources would be significant.
“For every one percent undercount, Arkansas stands to lose approximately $1 billion,” Hart said. “That is why we must take action now to ensure every Arkansan is counted.”
The Hope Public Schools is participating in the Census effort through at grant funded by non-profit organizations, foundations and a collaboration by Tyson Foods, Walmart Foundation, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation. Hart said the HPS effort intends to help inform Hope and Hempstead County residents about the importance of Census participation.
Most Census data should have been collected by the April 1 response date wither by mail, online or by telephone. But, that does not mean the Census count is over.
“April 1 is a reference date,” the Census Bureau explains at my2020census.gov online. “When you respond online, by phone, or by mail, count everyone living in your home as of April 1.”
April was intended as the follow-up month for door-to-door quality check interviews of households in select college and university towns and cities; and, May was the target month for door-to-door follow-up with households that had not responded to the 2020 Census. That has been modified as a result of the COVID-19 illness, according to the Census Bureau.
“The Census Bureau temporarily suspended 2020 Census field data collection activities in March,” USCB Director Steven Dillingham said in an April 13 statement. “Steps are already being taken to reactivate field offices beginning June 1, 2020, in preparation for the resumption of field data collection operations as quickly as possible following June 1.”
Dillingham said the USCB will fikkiq Centers for Disease Control guidance in its planning and operations through that period. Under authority sought from Congress to extend the data collection period an additional 120 days, the Census Bureau has tentatively set an Oct. 31, 2020, date for completion of field data collection and self-response receipts.
Consequently, Hope and Hempstead County residents who have not responded to the Census questionnaire still have an opportunity to do so by either completing the questionnaire mailed to them or by completing it online.
“Please note that if you are responding online, you must complete the census in one sitting, as you don’t have the ability to save your progress,” the USCB notes online. “If you do not receive an invitation to respond from the Census Bureau, you may respond online, or visit our Contact Us page to call our phone line.”
Privacy is also ensured in the Census response.
“It’s against the law for the Census Bureau to publicly release your response in any way that could identify you or your household,” the USCB states.
Federal funding of some $2.5 million in 2018-2019 supported numerous services provided by the Hope Public Schools in nutrition, academics, classroom, and other services and programs, Hart said.
“Together, we can ensure Arkansas continues to receive the resources it needs to help students and out state thrive,” he said.
Frequently asked questions and additional information are available at my2020census.gov online.