CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Governor Jim Justice said he has received two phone calls recently from United States Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross about the state being behind in 2020 Census count.
In hopes of not receiving a third call, Justice announced Thursday he has dedicated $1 million from the state’s contingency fund to West Virginia’s 2020 Census count.
“I’ve got two calls from Secretary Ross basically saying West Virginia is behind. I’m not going to get the third call because we need to get going, that’s all there is to it. We need to get cranking,” Justice said at a midday press conference.”
In October, Justice issued an Executive Order to establish a West Virginia Complete Count Commission; to serve to assist the United States Census Bureau in West Virginia.
The commission, full of dozens of leaders from around the state, has had meetings every month since formation. They have laid out strategies to reach more citizens around the state including breaking down into subcommittees to hit certain audiences.
Justice was critical of the group on Thursday, saying it is not moving at the pace he’d like.
“We’re moving but we are not moving like I want to see us moving,” he said. “I felt like ‘well gosh I created this Commission and everything is moving and progressing the way we want to go and it’s Honky Dory.’
“Well evidently it’s not and evidently we’re behind.”
The committees have also worked to recruit citizens around the state to work the Census. Justice said it’s not only a “good-paying job” but a “feel-good job” because of what is at stake for West Virginia in the Census.
When the Census gets underway on April 1, state officials know that federal grant funding is on the line for things like education, health care, roads, veteran’s services, and disaster relief.
National representation such as the number of representatives in the United States House of Representatives apportioned to West Virginia for the next 10 years is decided by the count.
Justice preached those factors and said citizens have to know that there is only an upside value to being counted in the Census.
“They are not going to come and get you,” he said. “There is nothing but positive goodness that is coming out of this. We have to get you counted.
“If you got Crazy Eddie that is up on the mountain, we have to know that Crazy Eddie is up on the mountain.”
Officials with the United States Census Bureau’s Regional Office in Philadelphia, including Assistant Regional Census Manager Timothy Maddaloni and Partnership Coordinator Ronald Brown, joined Gov. Justice for the announcement.
The $1 million tag will go towards both offices in the effort. Justice’s office estimated that only 74 percent of West Virginians responded in 2010.
“That’s a giant leap and a giant step in order for us to be sure that we get counted,” Justice said of the money. “I want Secretary Ross and everyone in every state to know that West Virginia takes this tremendously seriously.
“I want them to say West Virginia is leading the way and committed to making sure all people are counted.”
Gov. Justice also announced Thursday that the Complete Count Commission will hold its next official meeting on February 11, at 10 a.m. The meeting will be held at the West Virginia Department of Commerce, located in Building 3 of the Capitol Complex.