The deadline for completing the census will be on Oct. 31.
Monroe County Mayor Mitch Ingram stressed the importance of completing the census.
“There are about 315 federally funded programs that are all based on the population rate and that comes down to about 55 of those programs affect us here in Monroe County,” Ingram stated. “Roughly $30 billion nationwide are associated with these programs and locally about $17 billion and they fall into three categories of domestic financial assistance, tax credit programs, and procurement programs.”
Among the 55 programs that affect the county are Medicare, school insurance, highway programs and many more, according to Ingram.
“A question we get asked a lot is ‘how much is a person not answering worth and how does that affect the system?’ and what the government tells us is that it is about $1,050 for every person that is counted in the census and that ranges in age from babies to the elderly,” Ingram noted. “The census is over a 10 year period, so that one person is worth almost $11,000 in that time period ... so we encourage everyone to make sure that they fill out everyone in the household regardless their age, even if it is an infant or a toddler.”
According to Ingram, in the last census that took place in 2010, the age group that was undercounted were children under five years old.
He stated that “a lot of” the CARES Act money that has been received is based off of an area’s population.
“We have had, roughly, about a 55% completion rate in the last few days,” he noted. “This envelops so many things that we really encourage people to complete their forms.”
The census can be filled out online or at the county mayor’s office.
“If someone does not have access to the internet feel free to come by our office and we can help you fill that out,” Ingram said. “There has been paper surveys mailed out that people can send out and some census workers have been going door to door.”
He noted that the census will not involve any financial questions.
“Some people worry about financial questions but that is not what the census will ask,” Ingram said. “The survey only pertains to basic demographic questions. This survey is important and whatever comes up will be what we are locked in with for the next 10 years.”
Early voting starts today and will continue until Oct. 29 for the Nov. 3 election.
Voters can go to the Monroe County Election Commission office in Madisonville through the duration of early voting, Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. and 8:30 a.m. until noon on Saturday.
Voters can also early vote at the Sweetwater City Hall basement starting on Oct. 14 through the Oct. 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
Vonore voters can go to the Vonore Community Center to vote from Oct. 20 through Oct. 23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tellico Plains Community Center will receive early voters from Oct. 24 through Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. to noon on Oct. 24 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Oct. 26-29.
“We will be furnishing every voter who comes in with their own gloves, their own pen and we will have plenty of hand sanitizer and the voting booths are set six feet apart,” said Election Commission Administrator James Brown, referring to the safety precautions against COVID-19. “Our poll officials are required to wear masks and we will have somebody to clean each machine after every use.”
Brown expects to see “the largest turnout that we have had in years” during this election.
“Presidential is usually one of our biggest elections, but we are expecting an increase in turnout,” Brown stated.
Local contested positions on the ballot will be for alderman for the City of Madisonville, alderman for the Town of Vonore, and mayor for the Town of Tellico Plains.
For the Madisonville alderman election, voters will be able to select three between Augusta T. Davis, Horton Edward Dawson, Scott “Scooter” Hunt, and Susan G. Saunders.
Voters will be able to vote for two of the four candidates for the Vonore alderman race, consisting of James (Hamp) Brown, Dough Faragher, Robert Keenan, and Michael E. Moore.
Two candidates are running for Tellico Plains mayor, allowing voters to select one from either Marilyn F. Parker or Roger L. Powers.
Uncontested local positions are city recorder for the City of Madisonville, alderman for the Town of Tellico Plains and city recorder for Tellico Plains.
The candidate for Madisonville City Recorder is Sherri Anderson.
Four positions are available for Tellico Plains alderman and Perry Brake, Robert Wiliam Hamilton, Cynthia McDaniel, and Joyce A. McDaniel are running.
The applicant for Tellico City Recorder is Jo Cagle.
Voters will have the option between two candidates for Tennessee House of Representatives District 23, as Mark Cochran (R) faces David G.E. Fankhauser (independent).
Lowell Russell is running unopposed for Tennessee House of Representatives District 21 seat.
For United States House of Representatives District 3, voters will get to vote for one person among Chuck Fleischmann (R), Meg Gorman (D), Amber L. Hysell (independent) and Keith Douglas Sweitzer (independent).
Options for United States Senate include Bill Hagerty (R), Marquita Bradshaw (D), Yomi “Fapas” Faparusi Sr. (I), Jeffrey Alan Grunau (I), Ronie Henley (I), G. Dean Hill (I), Steven J. Hooper (I), Aaron James (I), Elizabeth McLeod (I), Kacey Morgan (I), and Eric William Stansberry (I).
The presidential section of the ballot contains nine candidates with the Democratic and Republican nominees, along with seven independent candidates.
The Republican nominee is Donald J. Trump with Michael R. Pence selected for vice president.
Joseph R. Biden is the Democratic nominee with Kamala D. Harris selected as his vice president.
The independent candidates include: Don Blankenship for president with William Hohr for vice president; Roque “Rockey” De La Fuente for president with Darcy G. Richardson for vice president; Hawie Hawkins for president with Angela Walker selected as his vice president; Jo Jorgensen for president with Jeremy “Spike” Cohen as vice president; Alyson Kennedy for president with Malcom Jarrett for vice president; Gloria La Riva for president with Sunil Freeman for vice president; and Kanye West for president with Michelle Tidball selected as his vice president.
Monroe County Schools is still experiencing “small spikes” in COVID cases.
According to Monroe County Schools Director DeAnna McClendon, the spikes tend to follow athletic events or from having gatherings during school breaks.
“We are not having so much transfer from student to student,” McClendon said. “We are having more transfer from someone at home contracting COVID and they’re giving it to a student.”
She believes the school’s plans to combat COVID have been working to prevent the spread of the virus while the students are at school.
The county schools are adjusting to utilizing the virtual learning aspect more as well.
“This is a time where you really have to be made of tough stuff to be a teacher because right now our teachers have their virtual students who are at home, may have their traditional brick and mortar students who are in the classroom with them, and then if we have students that have to go into quarantine then our teachers are having to make packets or material for those particular students as well,” she explained. “I think that we are always going to have a virtual option moving forward and I think we will be thinking through synchronous learning, meaning our teachers have cameras now so that students can actually watch the lessons from home now.”
That option was delayed due to the school board having to order the cameras as well as computers for the students.
“Our devices are supposed to be here between November and December, so then we will assign and distribute those to our students,” she noted.
Students who have opted for virtual learning have to maintain a nine-week course before being presented the option to continue virtual learning or return to the classroom.
Some of the comments McClendon has received from parents about virtual learning is difficulty with the system.
“I don’t think the parents were expecting the academic rigor that was in the virtual setting,” McClendon said. “It is very hard and rigorous, which we know we will have to have academic rigor whether you are in the classroom or whether you are online.”
She has noticed that the virtual learning option was “better suited” for older students who are around the high school level.
“I sat with a couple of students the other day at the alternative school and they were using the program (for virtual learning),” she stated. “I would say, especially in the younger grades, they really need an adult to sit with them because they have to listen to everything that is happening on screen, practice and respond and it is difficult for children to keep their focus.”
She also viewed high school students participating in virtual classes.
“At the high school level it seems that they were navigating through the courses better,” she said. “I followed one of the students and she seemed to be going through the material pretty well.”
Some students opted to return to classroom instruction over virtual back when school started back up.
“I think the students are very happy to be back and we are very grateful for that,” she stated. “We have seen from our children and families that they need that normalcy, that routine.”
The school board has also been practicing “Remote Learning Day” for teachers to “interface” more with struggling students at home.
“The teachers have three different sets of students that they are trying to keep on track (in person, virtual, quarantine) and keep their grades up,” she noted. “These are unprecedented times for our teachers so we need to think of how we can support our teachers so that they can support our students.”
The county schools will soon be starting its second nine weeks.
“I think that it will be crucial that we maintain our social distancing practices, I think we need to make sure everything is as clean as it possibly can be, and that we think through what education has looked like during these unprecedented times,” McClendon said. “We all just have to work together as a team and a community to make sure that we are keeping everyone as safe and healthy as possible, that we think through the burdens being placed on our educators, and we ask that the community have some patience with the school system.”