With one month to go before the reporting deadline for the U.S. Census, eight percent of Connecticut households still remain uncounted, currently the ninth-best completion rate in the country and the second-best response rate in New England after Maine.
In August, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that it would stop collecting responses for the census on September 30, a month earlier than previously stated.
According to Elizabeth Porter, chair of the Complete Contact Committee in Groton, the abrupt change in the deadline for collecting responses has created some challenges. “That, to me, was just unfair,” she said. “If you set a date, then stand by it.”
Porter, however, said that she was pleased with the results overall.
In spite of difficult-to-count areas like the Naval Submarine Base, Groton’s individual response rate is 71 percent, already several points higher than the town’s 2010 final response rate of 67 percent.
Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz encouraged residents who have not yet filled out their census forms to do so. “We need to double down on efforts to make sure we achieve a complete count,” she said in a press release.
Connecticut has tasked 156 Complete Count Committees with making sure that everyone in each designated area is recorded in the census.
According to state officials, for every person left uncounted, the state could lose $2,900 in federal funding each year for the next decade — reducing funding for Medicare and Medicaid, SNAP benefits, highway projects, school programs and disaster relief grants.
Nicholas Fischer, co-chair of the New London Complete Count Committee, said that some individuals, such as the homeless, recent immigrants, and people who have had negative experiences with law enforcement, are often reluctant to share personal information.
“A good part of what we need to do is to allay people’s fears,” said Fischer. “Our community has a very high poverty rate. There’s a lot of apprehension of responding to people knocking at the door.”
Fischer believes that the best way to do this is by enlisting trusted community members to encourage their neighbors to fill out the census, and to debunk some of the common myths — for instance, that the government can use this information for some purpose other than the census.
“We think that the key is face-to-face contact,” said Fischer. In the next month, Fischer plans to send volunteers to about 20 community events to talk with local residents about the importance of filling out the census questionnaire. Porter is dispatching Mobile Questionnaire Assistance Units to various locations in town, including two locations at the naval base, to help people fill out the census.
Early this month, the U.S. Census Bureau will re-send paper forms to areas that have had a low response rate. People can fill out the census online at 2020Census.gov, by mail or by calling the number on the mailed form. The Internet Self-Response Instrument and Census Questionnaire Assistance is available in 12 languages other than English.