Census kicks into full gear, invitation letter hitting residents’ mailboxes

Posted 3/9/20

There has been a bit of a buzz around town about the U.S. Census lately. Even the garbage trucks are talking about it.

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Census kicks into full gear, invitation letter hitting residents’ mailboxes

Posted

There has been a bit of a buzz around town about the U.S. Census lately.

Even the garbage trucks are talking about it.

But when such an important event only comes around every 10 years, city officials want to make sure everybody knows about it -- and gets counted.

City workers are touting the privacy of the survey -- people will not be asked their citizenship status, Social Security number, anything on behalf of a political party, or for a bank or credit card account number. The information residents provide is not accessible by outside organizations and cannot be used by the courts or by law enforcement.

The Census is critical for many reasons, one being that it determines how Arizona municipalities will divvy up state-shared funding determined by the count. State-shared revenues make up about 30% of Peoria’s general fund revenues, which amounted to nearly $44 million in 2018, according to the city’s finance and budget department.

So census and city workers are ramping up a call to action to prepare residents for Census Day, April 1, a key date by which every home in the country is expected to have received an invitation to participate in the population count.

The city has increased its census presence on social media and will have census materials and engagement booths at upcoming events such as the Peoria Arts Cultural Festival March 28 in Old Town Peoria.

“We are painting the town census,” Peoria spokeswoman Jennifer Stein said.

Citizens will be receiving an invitation letter in the mail between March 12 and March 20 that will include instructions on how to respond to the Census.

For the first time, citizens will be able to respond to the survey online. Responding via mail or  phone is also available, as well as through a personal visit from a census worker.

Planning Director Chris Jacques, who is Peoria’s Complete Count Committee chairman, said that once households receive their invitations, residents should respond to the Census by using a provided Census ID.

If a household is unable to enter the Census ID, people can still respond by providing their address. Whether people respond online, by phone or by mail, it is important to respond right away, he said.

“The letter will talk about language assistance if needed. The questionnaire is available in English and 12 additional languages. The 13 languages cover the language needs of over 99% of all U.S. households,” Mr. Jacques said.

“The letter will also include a unique code assigned to each address. You can use that code to self-respond. If, for some reason there is not a code, you can use your address. Lack of an ID code shouldn’t keep individuals from responding.”

By April 1, most households will have received an invitation delivered either by mail or by a census taker. In areas of the city or country that are less likely to respond online, a paper questionnaire will be included in the initial mailing to households.

Reminder mailings will be sent to households that do not respond, and in the fourth mailing every household that has not yet responded will receive a paper questionnaire.

If a household does not respond to any of the invitations, a census taker will follow up in person sometime between May 13 and July 31.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently launched a new online map that will allow state, local, and community leaders to work together to promote a complete and accurate count by increasing the self-response rate in their community.

The map currently displays 2010 Census self-response rates as a reference point, but as people begin responding to the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail in mid-March, the Census Bureau will update the map daily to reflect the percentage of households that self-respond online, by phone or by mail. The rate will be provided for the three modes combined and for online alone.

Mr. Jacques said the map will be updated seven days a week through May. After that, it will be updated Monday through Friday through the end of July.

This will be a very helpful tool, he said.

“So we will be able to understand where we might be struggling to get self-response in place and that helps each community not only track response but focus resources in areas that are perhaps seeing slower response rates,” he said.

The U.S. Constitution mandates a census of the population every 10 years.

Census statistics help determine the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives and how billions of dollars in federal funds are allocated to state and local communities for the next 10 years.

The Census in America is nearly as old as the country itself and was outlined by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to ensure federal and state governments properly distribute funds for things like public safety, transportation, education, and social services.

Mayor Cathy Carlat said accurate census counts are directly tied to funding streams that affect the life of each Peoria resident.

She said the census allows Peoria to receive its fair share of more than $675 billion in federal funding that is distributed to communities across the nation, as well as provides data and growth trends for a real-time perspective of what to expect in the future.

Census dollars help fund and run Peoria’s police and fire departments, support trash and recycle collection, as well as fund infrastructure maintenance and other essential services, Ms. Carlat said.

“In Peoria, these dollars make a big difference in the quality of life that we enjoy,” she said.

The census is a safe, secure, and completely confidential process, Ms. Carlat said.

Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697, phaldiman@newszap.com, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.

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