Census specialist introduces online form option to Springfield Selectboard

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – The Springfield Selectboard held its regular meeting Nov. 25 and heard from Thomas Simmons, a partnership specialist out of the New York Regional Census Center of the U.S. Department of Commerce Census Bureau, who was there to talk to the about the rollout of the 2020 census.

Simmons said the census is required every 10 years and his role over the next few months will be to make public presentations in 90 communities where he will visit many groups including low-income housing, senior centers, police departments, and Meals on Wheels to explain this year’s process. To help spread the word, public service announcements will be located at churches, town managers’ offices, schools, cinemas, and on the Bureau’s Facebook page.

It is in the town’s best interest, Simmons said, to get an accurate count of every individual who exists in Springfield because, based on the census data, the town will get its apportionment of the $675 billion federal dollars in the form of grants and support. That money is spent on schools, hospitals, roads, public works, and other vital programs such as Medicare Part B, Meals on Wheels, and SNAP.

Although certain populations historically respond in lower ratios on a national level, Simmons said when the census was last done the town of Springfield had a lower response rate than a lot of other towns and came in at about 59 to 60%. The Bureau would like to see at least a 70% response because the census numbers are tied to federal programs.

Ten years ago, Simmons said, the census missed a million children nationwide. Those might include children in foster care or situations where there is a shared custody arrangement.  Seniors are good responders, he said, but older seniors sometimes are not. People can help each other by circulating this information to their friends, family, and neighbors so everyone in Springfield is counted. This includes all renters, frequent movers, group quarters, transients, and people living in recovery houses.

There is often concern about giving personal information to an agency because people feel like their privacy might be exploited. Simmons said the Census Bureau, by law, cannot publicly release information that could identify you or your household to law enforcement or Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Your responses cannot be used against you and can only be used to produce statistics.

It is important to note that the rollout this year is different, Simmons said. For the first time in history, you will be able to complete your census online. He said this is good for some but not for all because some people either do not own a computer or they may not be comfortable with putting data like this out on the web.

Beginning in March, the invitation to file your census online will go out to each address of record and the envelope will say “Occupant.” This first mailing will not include a paper form, which might confuse people. For the next couple of weeks, a similar invitation will go out weekly and still not include a paper form. The reason the mailing is addressed to occupant and not the owner of the property is because everyone living in the household needs to be included. If there are multiple people living there, regardless of the arrangement, they need to be counted.

By April 1, anyone who has not completed the online form will get a mailing that is a physical paper form to fill out and mail back by regular mail. Simmons said this will not be a long-form census because the Bureau no longer uses long forms, but he said it is safe and simple and very important to make sure everyone is counted. The form is also available in as many as 12 different languages.

If you are someone who travels to another part of the country during the winter months, you will be able to go online anywhere and complete the form or you may obtain a paper copy in most municipal offices across the country. Ultimately, every household that has not submitted online by April 1 will receive a paper copy in the mail.

Lastly, Simmons said, in order to visit households that have not responded by April 1, people will be hired as doorknockers which, Simmons said, usually gets the phone ringing at the local police departments when strangers show up at the door. He said he needs recruitment and it is better to hire local workers that people know and trust who want to work weekends or nights. For more information, go to www.2020census.gov.

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