The upcoming census, a federally mandated count of everyone in the United States, will affect a lot in the next 10 years, from schools, to healthcare, to federal funding, to businesses that make Aiken County their home.

Renwick McNeil, South Carolina partnership specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau, and Will Williams, president and CEO of Economic Development Partnership, spoke about the census and those effects at the North Augusta Chamber of Commerce breakfast on Tuesday morning.

McNeil said census data is used to determine funding from the federal government.

“Over $675 billion annually the federal government gives our to municipalities to support their programs, federal programs, is based off this count,” McNeil said.

“We want to make certain Aiken gets its fair share, Aiken County; let’s make certain North Augusta gets its fair share.”

On March 12, McNeil said, the government will begin sending invitations for folks to go online and fill out the census. This is the first time the internet is the primary method of filling out the census. He said there are nine questions per person on the questionnaire. If, by the third mail notification, people don’t respond online, they will receive a paper copy. For those who can’t do it online or on paper, there will also be a toll-free phone number made available.

Along with funding, census data also determines the spread of representatives in Congress, in the state legislature and in County Council.

Williams said Aiken County has experienced a population increase of around 10,000 people, but that number is based off records, like birth and death rates. He said the census will be the “true teller” of that.

“Sixteen counties in South Carolina out of 46 have had 5% or more population growth,” Williams said.

He said the city of North Augusta, based on current data, has experienced about 10% population growth, whereas the city of Aiken has had about 1% of population growth.

Williams said census data will also be used by businesses or industry that are looking at the region for a new facility.

“If it’s not right, it’s a 10-year mistake,” he said.

McNeil said the next 10 years will be determined off 2020’s census data.

“So for the next 10 years, these numbers will impact your city government, county government, state government, federal government. We need to get this because this is our opportunity to shape our future for the next 10 years,” he said.

He gave an example of school construction as something the census could affect.

“I’ve been living in South Carolina since 2007,” he said.

“I saw them build a school, and within six months after building that school, there were portables going up. I couldn’t understand why. How do you build a school and not build it big enough to accommodate the size of kids you’re going to have enrolled?

“Census,” he said. “Not everyone filling out the census.”

McNeil said the census is safe for anyone to fill out. Information from the census cannot and will not be used against anyone, he said.

“We are not allowed to use this information against you in any way, shape or form.”

One of the reasons an accurate count is not achieved, he said, is the worry people have if they have more people than allowed living in their residence, but people filling out the form should still list every person living in each residence.

“Your homeowner, landlord, housing authority will never see this information. We need you to put that information on there,” McNeil said.

Follow Lindsey on Twitter at @LindseyNHodges. 

Lindsey is the North Augusta reporter at the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star. She graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2017, and grew up in Hodges, SC.