FLORENCE — A website being developed by the Northwest Alabama Council of Local Governments that will encourage Shoals residents to fill out their 2020 U.S. Census forms is expected to go live next week.

The website will feature information about the importance of the 2020 Census and, eventually, have video messages from local mayors and others.

The web address will be icountshoals.com.

The "I Count Shoals" committee met Thursday at the Shoals Chamber of Commerce to discuss the progress of local efforts to ensure every Shoals resident is counted, and knows the importance of participating in the 2020 Census.

The group will use the website and videos, but will also utilize social media and public service messages on local radio stations to make sure everyone is aware before the big census roll out in April.

"It's a work in progress," NACOLG Executive Director Keith Jones said. "We want to make people interested in why it's important."

The University of North Alabama is assisting in the effort by creating the videos with Shoals mayors and others, including UNA President Ken Kitts.

Michelle Eubanks, interim associate director of the UNA Communications and Marketing Department, said they have already produced videos with Kitts and Florence Mayor Steve Holt. They plan to shoot videos of the mayors of Sheffield, Muscle Shoals and Tuscumbia in the future.

Jones also suggested including a representative of Colbert and Lauderdale counties, such as the commission chairmen or county administrators. 

Ashley Morrow, of Click Synergy Marketing, suggested identifying other community leaders who might speak to different segments of the community.

Members agreed they want the "I Count Shoals" effort to be diverse so it accurately reflects the Shoals.

UNA is also working on materials to help students navigate the 2020 Census.

Paul Housel, district field director for U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs has completed a 2020 Census action plan.

ADECA has received $1 million to promote the plan in all 67 Alabama counties.

Rejetta A. Poole, a U.S. Census Bureau partnership specialist for Alabama, said everyone will receive a postcard alerting them that they must fill out their census form. They will be directed to the U.S.Census website so they can fill out their form online.

The 2020 Census will be the first time residents can fill out census forms online.

"We just want to be sure everyone is counted, everyone is counted once and counted in the right place," Poole said.

Information gathered by George Washington University's G.W. Institute of Public Policy indicates in fiscal year 2016, Alabama received $13,072,790,109 through 55 federal spending programs guided by data derived from the 2010 U.S. Census.

Local messages will attempt to convince residents this is another reason to fill out a census form.


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