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Missouri census committee turns in final report

Missourians fell a little short in counting themselves during this year's census compared to the previous one, but the committee tasked with encouraging participation reported this week that the count was successful.

The Missouri 2020 Complete Count Committee turned in its final report to Gov. Mike Parson on the last day of November, after receiving a three-month extension this summer to finish its work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The committee reported that 99.9 percent of Missourians were counted, as of Oct. 15.

"We are confident Missouri will maintain its current congressional representation and will not lose federal dollars apportioned from census data," the committee states in its report.

The committee did not see as much self-reporting by Missourians for the Census as it would have liked. Oct. 15 was the last day for Missourians to respond to the Census, but as of the next day, the state's self-response rate was 65.9 percent, compared to this year's national rate of 67 percent and the state's 2010 rate of 73 percent.

This year was the first time Missourians could respond to the census online.

"However, due to lack of internet access in certain urban and rural areas, responding online was not as viable of an option for some Missourians as it was for others. Missouri ranked 27th among all states in total self-response rates," according to the committee's report.

The pandemic also complicated things.

"Many Missourians are often annoyed by census workers when they come to the door, but this year there was an added component of fear. For many Missourians responding to the census was less of a priority with the ongoing pandemic," the report notes.

Looking ahead to the 2030 census, the committee's recommendations include continuing to organize with trusted and well-informed faith-based and community leaders to reach hard-to-count groups — and in different languages — developing a website for centralized communication; giving more than 12 months for the committee to complete its work; having more staff from the Office of Administration; and having more participation from elected officials, state agencies and other state leaders in supporting the census.

The committee also noted: "In 2030, technology will have changed and there will be complete count methods enabled that could not have been thought of in 2020, just as the explosion of online platforms and social media could not have been utilized in 2010 as it was in 2020."

Parson thanked the committee's Chair Karen Best and the other members for their work.

Best said in a news release from Parson's office: "Despite the many challenges we've faced this year, including the COVID-19 pandemic, committee members from across the state came together and worked tirelessly to make sure every Missourian was counted in 2020. Thank you to our committee members, census workers and citizens of Missouri for your commitment to the census process."

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