If you live here, you count here.

That was the message Onslow County and City of Jacksonville leaders espoused at a rally at the Onslow County Courthouse, March 9. Census packets will be in residents’ mailboxes as of March 12 and the responses to the 2020 census has far reaching economic and civic impact on the local area.

During the last census, a low record caused the area to miss out on roughly $402 million. A portion of that came from confusion among the military community on how the census tracks things like home of record as well as state residency.

“We lost a large count due to a lot of deployed military as well as those who were afraid of losing their residency,” said Sammy Phillips, Jacksonville mayor.

Leaders emphasized that the census does not affect permanent residency.

“We want to remind people that this census is important for the next 10 years moving forward,” said Don Herring, chair of Onslow Complete Count, a committee focused on civic education. “The census does not change residency, home of record or tax status. … The census will be in your mailbox (March 12). It is the easiest census we have ever had.”

For those needing internet to fill out their packet online, the City of Jacksonville and Onslow County urge calling libraries and community centers in the area for access to their resources.

“Remember, if you do not respond, the (U.S.) Census (Department) will have to send someone to your home which ties up resources and money,” said Royce Bennett, Onslow County commissioner. “You can fill it out online … by telephone or ask for a slip of paper in the mail.”

In a show of regional good will, Phillips challenged P.J. Connelly, mayor of Greenville, North Carolina, to see which city has a higher turnout rate. If Greenville wins, Phillips will have to dress as a pirate in homage to Eastern Carolina University.

“We are looking for a 100 percent response rate,” Phillips said.

Information on the 2020 census can be found at https://www.onslowcountync.gov.