BY D’ARCY EGAN
The U.S. Census Bureau wants you!
They’ve got your number if you live in Ottawa County, and it’s shameful. Despite losing a wide variety of federal benefits a decade ago, the men, women and children living here are still among the worst in Ohio at responding to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Ottawa County was dead last among Ohio’s 88 counties in 2010 with an abysmal U.S. response rate of 50.8%. It was not a regional apathy. Sandusky County residents recorded a 72.4% response rate a decade ago, with Erie County at 64.3%. The top two Ohio counties were Medina (77%) and Warren (75.9%).
“A good response to the U.S. Census every 10 years is so very important for local communities,” said Roxanne Wallace, an Assistant Regional Census Manager in the Greater Philadelphia Area, during a telephone interview. “The census determines the distribution of $675 billion in federal funding, and Ottawa County has been leaving some of its funding on the table.”
Getting shortchanged are county hospitals, schools, EMS and fire departments. Communities lose funds for roads, bridges and infrastructure. Short-changed are such programs as WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), the national school lunch program and meals on wheels.
The Census also supports grants for teachers and special education, and the Head Start Program. Partnership programs include food pantries, jobs and families services, AARP and many other social organizations.
U.S. Census forms were mailed to all households in the United States in March. Less than 30% in Ottawa County have responded, far less than the 41.7% average in Ohio.
“This year’s census response is the easiest ever,” said Wallace. “It takes less than 10 minutes to fill out the mailed census form, with nine questions for the head of household and seven questions pertaining to the other people who live in the house.”
Even if hindered by social distancing and or quarantined because of coronavirus (COVID-19), a census response is only an email or telephone call away. To fill out a census online visit 1220census.gov. To connect by telephone call the census hotline at 844-330-2020.
“Our hotline census takers speak 13 languages, and we’re set up to handle 59 languages and Braille!” said Wallace.
If a census taker eventually knocks on your door because you have not responded, that person can handle your response. But every door a census taker knocks on costs the government $98.
“The census does not ask for social security, bank, credit card or information about income. They do not ask for money or donations, or your religion or political party,” said Wallace.
“Census workers do not share personal information with anyone, including law enforcement, ICE or customs officials. They are also sworn to a lifetime of confidentiality.”
Census workers have been suspended from doing field operations through mid-April because of coronavirus, but the bureau is busily trying to hire 500,000 temporary census takers for the door-to-door visits. It has delayed its count of homeless and people living in groups, such as college dorms and nursing homes, but expects to wrap up its count in August.
President Donald Trump will use the census results for its primary purpose of apportionment, which is the creation of state legislative districts by popuilation, by Dec. 31.