Liberty County will contest the results of the 2020 Census, County Administrator Joey Brown said at last week’s Hinesville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting.
According to Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission Executive Director Jeff Ricketson, the final count for the 2020 Census indicated Liberty County, including all seven municipalities, had 167 fewer housing units in 2020 than 2010. Ricketson said those numbers were incorrect. He said the combined records from the Liberty County Building and Licensing Department and the Hinesville Inspections Department showed more than 1,800 housing units were built in that decade.
“This means that over 2,000 housing units (households) were not counted into the 2020 Census numbers,” Ricketson said. Ricketson said governing entities submit a Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) to add all new addresses from the previous eight years to the federal census database. The LUCA was completed in 2018, submitted by the LCPC, and was certified by the U.S. Census Bureau.
“We have reviewed the numbers and it appears that none of the information in the LUCA was used when the Census Bureau determined population and household counts for 2020,” Ricketson said. “This disparity could be undercounting Liberty County by as much as 2,000 households and up to 5,000 people.” To remedy the situation, the LCPC will be filing a Census Count Question Resolution (CQR) and Post Census Group Quarter Review (PCGQR), on behalf of the county and corresponding cities, to try to resolve the housing count dispute. Ricketson said the Census Bureau requires a block level analysis in order for their appeal to be accepted. That required geographic information system (GIS) expertise not available within the county. Ricketson said the county is working with the Coastal Regional Commission (CRC), which has the GIS capability needed to perform the work. The required reports will be submitted to the U.S. Census Bureau by the end of the year.
“The CRC’s work will include spatial analysis to identify discrepancies between Census-reported housing units and Liberty County residential addresses and permits,” Ricketson said. “CRC will also provide maps and web applications to assess discrepancies and edit the CQR and PCGQR submission.”
Ricketson said once the reports are submitted, the Census Bureau has 90 days to complete its review of the appeals and render an official response to the county.
“It should be pointed out that even if we are successful with our appeal, the officially published 2020 Census numbers will not change,” he said. “The official 2020 Census numbers will continue to be the basis for of political apportionment of federal, state and local election boundaries until the 2030 Census is completed. However, the appeal should result in adjustments to regular Census Bureau estimates and data going forward. This will memorialize and document the extent to which we were undercounted in the 2020 Census.”
Ricketson said Census counts play a vital role in economic development, government funding formulas and community planning and that accurate numbers are essential.
Brown said he was not aware of any current projects that will be hampered by the census inaccuracy.
“However, future potential funding at the federal level is often allocated based on total population counts, such as transportation grants,” he said.