October 27, 2021

County lags on Census responses

Bureau schedules event to increase Cortland compliance

Cortland County’s response rate to the 2020 U.S. Census remains well below its response in 2010 — with Cortland’s south side and a number of rural areas below that. But the county is doing better than the rest of the state.

An upcoming event by the Census Bureau will try to get more people to fill out the Census before enumerators begin going door to door in August.

That event, PUSH week, will begin Monday and continue through Aug. 2, with the Census Bureau reaching out to news media and via social media to encourage people to fill out the census.

“Just other things to create the buzz around the Census,” Jeff Behler, the regional director, said Monday.

Normally an event like this would happen around Census Day on April 1, but with the coronavirus pandemic the bureau had to rethink its approach. Events would take place at churches and libraries, where people would tend to gather, and people would be able to fill out the census there.

“What we’re trying to do is recreate that buzz,” Behler said.

County Planning Director Dan Dineen said the self-response rate in the county is 58.3%, below the 2010 response rate of 66.7%, but above the state’s response rate of 57.7%.

The national response rate is 62.1%.

Census Media Specialist Chris Iven said the worst response in the county “is actually in the southern part of the city of Cortland, but more rural areas in the southeast, east and north of the county are lower than the county average.”

“The highest current self-response rate in Cortland County is the town of Homer at 68.5% and the village of Homer at 68.9%,” Dineen said. “The lowest current self-response rate is the town of Willet at 40.9%.”

The challenge is being done across a region consisting of eight states Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont — and Puerto Rico.

The hope is to get as many people to respond before enumerators knock on doors, something that might not sit right with people during a pandemic.

“If they self-respond, that’s one less door we have to knock on,” Behler said.

But even when the enumerators are out knocking on doors, Behler said they will have masks and hand sanitizer and will practice social distancing once they ring the doorbell. On top of that, Behler said if people aren’t home a little door tag or letter letting people know that an enumerator will stop by again or that someone can fill out the census by phone or online.

Behler said the most important thing is that people remember the census information helps provide information for big decisions like representation on a local, state and federal level and funding.

“These are things that affect every community, this is why this is so important,” Behler said. “For the next 10 years we have to live with these results.”