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Used to determine the number of seats a state receives in the House of Representatives and how $675 billion in federal aid is distributed, two Census Bureau officials underlined the importance of making sure every Plainville resident is counted during a presentation to the Town Council Monday.
Catherine Marx, who gave the presentation with fellow census official Mark Plumley, urged the council to consider creating a complete count committee to work with the Census Bureau to increase the response rate in town. She noted that in one Plainville’s four census tracts, located in the south-western corner, 20 percent of residents don’t fill out the form.
Since that area has a high rate of renter occupied housing, she suggested that if a committee were formed, the kind of work it could do would be reaching out to landlords in that region to encourage them to speak with tenants.
"So if I were working with you to do the Plainville Complete Count Committee, one of the things I might say is ... 'do we have an organization of the landlords there, so we can get them involved,'" Marx said.
Following the presentation, Town Manager Robert Lee said he will seek out potential names for a committee and return to the council with a list for its July meeting.
In an effort to make it as easy as possible to respond, next year, respondents will be able to fill out their census form online or through mobile devices.
Plumley sought to reassure anyone skeptical about providing the government with personal information by saying that the bureau is prohibited from sharing it with any other government agency and it’s kept under tight cybersecurity.
"We cannot share any of the information that we receive from the census with any government or state or federal agency. So that is everything from Homeland Security to (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)," he said.
If someone doesn’t respond to the paper forms sent to their house, or online, then comes the knock on the door. Marx estimated the Census Bureau will hire between 9,000 and 10,000 enumerators to go door-to-door with forms in hand to help people fill them out. They use a national database of mailing addresses, advice from local government officials, aerial photography and field work to identify where people live.
"Those enumerators cost a lot of money to send out to the households, so we are making it as easy as possible for people to self-respond to the census," Marx said. "The census is actually the largest peacetime operation that's done in the United States. It's quite a task to do.”