PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB)–Two men. Two different political parties. One common goal: to increase census participation among adults and children in Bay County. Former Congressman Steve Southerland, a Republican, and former Panama City Mayor Scott Clemons, a Democrat, are both urging residents to respond to the 2020 census.
Bay County’s response rate for the 2020 census currently sits at 41.8%. The two former elected officials say we need to do better.
“Often times, programs that come from the federal government and federal dollars that come our way are based on the counts of the population,” said Southerland.
Southerland says responding to the census is not a partisan issue.
“The census is just one more way where we need to come together and support each other by responding to the census,” said Clemons.
Southerland and Clemons are working with the Children’s Campaign and Florida Tax Watch. Their goal is to educate residents and to stress that responding to the census is important regardless of what party you’re affiliated with.
“Responding to the census and getting all of our federal funding, that lowers our tax burden here in Bay County,” said Clemons.
Both men are also focusing on a largely underrepresented group, children.
“If you have people that don’t participate in the census and they have three children, it’s not just one adult that is not counted, it’s four individuals,” said Southerland.
The two former politicians say many programs geared towards children depend on census data.
“Programs like education, early education, and child health,” said Clemons.
The 2020 census can be filled out online for the first time. Residents can also respond by telephone or mail.
To respond online, visit https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/respond/respond-online.html