West Virginia has one of the country’s lowest participation rates in the 2020 census.
Data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau shows only about a third of West Virginia households have responded to the head count as of Thursday, putting the state as third worst behind only Alaska and Puerto Rico.
About a month into the census effort, the national response rate is about half of all households with Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan leading the pack with over 50% return rates.
Republican Gov. Jim Justice and other state officials have repeatedly urged residents to fill out the once-in-a-decade census forms.
“Federal funding to state and local communities, congressional representation, economic development grants, business recruitment, rural broadband investment, health centers, fire departments, Medicaid, highways, and a number of other programs depend on accurate counting of people within our state,” Secretary of State Mac Warner said.
The state will also use census data to redraw congressional and state legislative districts in 2021.
The Census Bureau’s suspension of field operations between mid-March and mid-April due to the spread of the new coronavirus may be affecting response rates. And besides causing the delay in field operations, the outbreak is keeping advocacy and civic groups from conducting face-to-face outreach, which is considered the most effective way of encouraging participation.
People can respond to the census online, by phone or by mail.