When Supreme Court stopped Census, participation rate was low here
While some local officials were not happy to see the U.S. Census halted roughly two weeks earlier than planned, this year’s Census could mean positive changes for one Tri-City area municipality.
Berwick Mayor Duval Arthur said he is confident, based on their census totals, that Berwick will no longer be designated a town. Instead, the local municipality, after figures are finalized, will be known as the city of Berwick, Arthur predicted.
“That was my goal, to become a city,” he said.
According to U.S. Census figures, Berwick had the highest Census participation in the parish among municipalities at 64.7%.
Arthur said the designation as a city will mean positives in terms of funding.
“When you look at grants, it’s based on population and whether you’re a town or city, so all of those things are factored when you go in for fundraising and stuff like that,” he said. “I’m talking about for grants and like capital outlay funds from the state. All of that’s based on population, so the more people you got, the more money you’re going to get.”
Despite the positive news, Arthur said he was hoping the census would have continued until Oct. 31.
He’s not alone as other Tri-City area leaders expressed displeasure with last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that ended the count early, or simply with their municipalities’ participation.
While local governments and civil rights groups had sued to keep the census count going past the Sept. 30 deadline the Trump administration had set due to a deadline required by law, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the count could proceed through Oct. 31. The Trump administration appealed the ruling, and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the administration.
Locally, Patterson Mayor Rodney Grogan was frustrated with his city’s results.
Patterson had the parish’s second-lowest participation rate at 54.9%.
“People just did not take it serious, and we’re going to have some serious repercussions behind people choosing not to participate,” he said.
Grogan said the city’s numbers went up “probably about 1%” since the extension was granted before it was halted. He said he thought it wouldn’t have mattered even if the count was extended until the end of the year, because he said he thought Patterson had peaked in its residents’ participation.
As for repercussions, Grogan said those that benefit from federal funding besides what’s given to the city for infrastructure, such as those living in housing authority property, those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, those that are covered through insurance by the Affordable Care Act and free lunch in the school system all are areas affected by the census.
“That means we’re going to wind up funding some money to cover those loses that we’re going to be seeing, and it’s sad to say our seniors are going to be really affected,” he said.
St. Mary Parish President David Hanagriff said St. Mary Parish’s participation rate of 55.5% ranked 33rd out of 64 parishes.
While Hanagriff said the ranking “isn’t horrible,” he said the parish’s participation rate isn’t close to the average for Louisiana or nationally.
“The more time for us to increase that in St. Mary Parish, the better, because we’re already fighting the potential of losing population,” he said. “So we need to have everyone counted.”
Hanagriff disagreed with stopping the census before the Oct. 31 deadline extension that had been granted.
“I believe the Census should be extended primarily because of the situation with COVID and how everything else has been shut down and disrupted throughout, so I believe that everyone should get some more time,” he said.
Morgan City Mayor Frank “Boo” Grizzaffi, whose city’s participation was at 58.7%, said that his city had a “poor response” among its residents.
He said he didn’t believe the move to halt the census early would make a difference in Morgan City, though.
“The people that have submitted their return have submitted their return,” he said. “The people that haven’t, haven’t.”
Elsewhere in St. Mary Parish, Baldwin had the lowest participation rate among parish municipalities at 41.8%, while Franklin had the parish’s second-highest among municipalities at 59.2%.
Additional reporting by The Center Square.