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City on course to beat last decade’s census rate

Sterling Heights Sentry | Published May 10, 2020

 Sterling B. Counted, right, poses with Sonic the Hedgehog at The Halo in February as part of Sterling Heights’ 2020 census outreach campaign.

Sterling B. Counted, right, poses with Sonic the Hedgehog at The Halo in February as part of Sterling Heights’ 2020 census outreach campaign.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Sterling Heights officials say they are succeeding where it counts — namely the 2020 census.

At a May 5 Sterling Heights City Council meeting, City Manager Mark Vanderpool called the census success and the public’s engagement some good news amid the COVID-19 emergencies.

“I think it's helped that perhaps everyone has been at home and maybe had some time to focus on this,” he said. “But as everyone knows, we've had a very aggressive census campaign underway for a number of months now, and that effort is paying off.” 

In January, Sterling Heights rolled out a census participation campaign complete with slogans like “Count Me In!” and “Be(e) Counted!”, broad advertising, social media coverage and a bee mascot named Sterling B. Counted. 

City officials say the census is important because it helps in obtaining millions of dollars for residents, money for roads, student loans and programming related to senior citizens, school lunches and unemployment.

City officials want to beat their 86% participation rate from the last census, taken in 2010, and the campaign’s goal has been to convince enough residents to fill out their census forms that the end result is 95% or higher.

The city reported a 57.4% participation rate by the end of March. On April 1, Census Day, the city announced that at the time it was a leader among U.S. cities for its participation rate and the No. 1 city in Michigan.

In an April 14 Facebook post, Sterling Heights said the rate jumped to 69.2%. During the April 21 City Council meeting, Vanderpool said Sterling Heights had an estimated 71% completion rate. 

At the May 5 meeting, Vanderpool announced that the city’s updated rate was 78.9%, putting the city above the national average of 56.8%, the state average of 63.5% and the southeastern Michigan average of 67%. He also said the city’s participation leads over Macomb County’s 74.8%, Ann Arbor’s 67.1%, Livonia’s 78.1% and Troy’s 75.4%. 

Vanderpool was optimistic that the city could beat its 2010 rate, perhaps in a couple of weeks.

“So we'll be well on our way to hitting our goal of just over 90%,” he said.

During the meeting, Mayor Michael Taylor encouraged residents to fill out their forms if they haven’t done so yet. He said some people are waiting for the hard copy paper forms or for assistance. He commented on the estimate of almost 80% of households completing the census so far.

“We're doing really well. At one point we were leading the nation,” he said. “We're right up there, so just keep on going with that momentum.” 

He also called the census a way that people can help the city.

“People always are wondering what are ways that they can get involved in the city. There's no better way right now than doing this,” he said. 

“We've gotten (Community Development Block Grant) allocation money. We've gotten kind of that twice. And we're thinking that there's going to be possibly another allocation based on our population through another CARES Act two or three or whatever it would be. So never has it been more apparent how important this census is than right now.” 

The city has a hotline for senior residents who need census help; they may call (586) 446-2757. Find out more about Sterling Heights by visiting www.sterling-heights.net.

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