MERIDEN — City and state officials are gearing up to make sure every resident is counted when the 2020 U.S. Census begins next month including the very young and the undocumented.
The 10-year survey, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution, requires every household to fill out a questionnaire. The census results help determine federal aid, valued at about $2,900 for every city resident.
Census population data is also used to determine the distribution of Congressional seats.
“This year people can apply online and there are packages mailed out and available at the library,” said state Rep. Hilda Santiago, co-chairwoman of the city’s Complete Count Committee, the group responsible for promoting participation. “The schools are getting involved by sending notices reminding parents they need to fill out the census.”
Santiago said a count taken two years ago reported 800 fewer residents in her district following the demolition of the Mills Memorial Apartments and the relocation of its residents. If that number doesn’t increase, her district could be expanded and fewer dollars will come to the city.
“If a couple of thousand people don’t complete the census, then we get a lot less funding,” Santiago said.
State House districts generally have between 22,000 and 25,000 people. Santiago hopes the addition of 151 new apartments at Meriden Commons I and II, and leasing at 11 Crown St. by the end of the year will offset the decrease.
“We have the largest amount of renters in my district,” Santiago said. “Some tenants figure the landlord should complete the census— one of the most undercounted groups are children age zero to five. Others are afraid to complete it.”
There is a sizeable undocumented resident population that Santiago estimates to be around 2,000 to 3,000. Many undocumented residents fear census information will be turned over to other agencies, Santiago said.
“They don’t trust the system,” she said. “We have to make sure we educate the regular population and the undocumented, that (the census) not going to be used by any other agency.”
Residents are expected to complete and submit census questionnaires by April 1. If not completed by April 1, census workers will be visiting homes.
“We have to educate the population to have their application filed on April 1, and nobody will come knocking on your door,” she said., “We will continue until we feel we have an accurate count.”
City Mayor Kevin Scarpati appointed the 16 members of the 2020 Census Committee last summer They include representatives from different organizations, like the Midstate Chamber of Commerce, Hispanic Outreach Leaders in Action, the Council of Neighborhoods, the Meriden-Wallingford NAACP, United Way of Meriden and Wallingford, MidState Medical Center, Children’s First Initiative, the public library and religious organizations.
The Meriden Public Library will offer assistance completing the questionnaire in both English and Spanish.
“We will be available to help people fill out the form online, in writing, or on the phone,” said Laura Pudvah, a reference librarian.
A mobile unit of volunteers will be at the library on March 28.
“It is vital to get a complete and accurate count in the 2020 Census for the city of Meriden and I implore our residents to participate,” City Manager Tim Coon said in a statement. “Those numbers have a direct impact on billions of dollars in funding that go towards programs related to schools, community, health care, job opportunities and just about every aspect of our state.”
Last month, Gov. Ned Lamont and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz launched an official website for the 2020 Census that provides state residents with resources about the survey and its impact on Connecticut, including information for completing the census, ways to get involved, events that are being held around the state, and opportunities for job openings with the census.
Bysiewicz and the local Complete Count Committee will present an update on upcoming events at a press conference on Feb. 19.