Alexander County sees lowest dip in population in the Nation

Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 10:43 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 14, 2021 at 7:17 AM CDT
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CAIRO, Ill. (KFVS) - Alexander County saw the biggest decrease in population out of all counties in the U-S., according to the latest census.

Alexander County lost a third of its population between 2010 and 2020. A local health and housing officials who said the smaller population means less government funding, and fewer health and housing opportunities.

“We don’t want the dollars that were earmarked for our region to go somewhere else,” Shawnna Rhrine with Southern 7 Health Department said.

According to the U-S Census, more than 36% of the population in Alexander County Moved away over the last ten years. It’s not the first time the areas seen a decrease in the population.

When the people go, Rhine said so does the state funding.

“We saw a 12 million dollar drop in funding to our region due to the last census,” Rhrine said

Rhine said the money helps pay for valuable resources.

“The whole Southern Illinois region relies heavily on that funding that we receive from the census. We use it for roads, our schools, our hospitals, local businesses,” Rhrine said.

Joann Pink with the Alexander County Housing Authority said, in recent years, she’s seen less people apply for housing. Partially due to the COVID-19 crisis, but also because the lack of employment.

“The people leave and they go to the larger metropolitan areas such as Cape Girardeau, and Carbondale, and Paducah, and Marion. They always leave because there’s jobs there and more housing available,” Pink said.

Pink said their occupancy rate is about 3% lower than normal.

“Its low, it is required we try and keep our occupancy rate at 97 percent,” Pink said.

Despite the difficulties, plans such as the “Cairo Riverport Project” are expected to rejuvenate Southern Illinois.

“Cairo’s riverport will stand as shining example of Illinois’ leadership. Goof jobs, multigenerational investments, and economic growth and community revitalization,” Governor J.B. Pritzker said.

Rhrine said she hopes the latest count will serve as a lesson for the next census, where she says more people need to make sure they get counted.

“We can’t predict when the next emergency is. We can’t predict when the next pandemic is. So, it helps us to be prepared,” Rhrine said.

Rhrine said there is a current delay of funding due to COVID-19 related needs.

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