A preliminary injunction extending the deadline for responding to the U.S. Census could give local cities and towns more time to increase their response rates.
A ruling by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in California late Thursday allows the once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident to continue through the end of October.
Koh said the shortened schedule ordered by President Donald Trump's administration likely would produce inaccurate results that would last a decade.
The judge sided with civil rights groups and local governments that sued the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the statistical agency, arguing that minorities and others in hard-to-count communities would be missed if the counting ends this month.
The ruling, which is being appealed by the Trump administration, gives cities like Meriden more time to address their undercount while other local towns were pleased with their response rates so far.
With the state of Connecticut’s rate at 70.2%, Cheshire Assistant Town Manager Arnett Talbot is happy with the town’s response rate being at 82.9%.
“There were a significant number of responses submitted electronically, which meant less legwork for the Census representatives on the ground,” Talbot said. “This isn’t surprising, given that Cheshire as a community is generally responsive and responsible.”
The town and other organizations worked with the Cheshire Complete Count Committee to educate Cheshire residents on the importance of participating in the count. The committee was assisted by regional Census representatives who provided information, materials and other ideas.
Talbot said that while they would love for the total to increase, Cheshire’s current response rate is great.
“We are pleased with the number of residents who have self-reported given this strange and challenging time,” Talbot said.
Both Wallingford and Southington have surpassed Connecticut’s average self-response rate with Wallingford being at 76.8% and Southington with a rate of 81.5%.
Rob Phillips, the planning director and Census count committee lead for Southington, said 66.2% of Southington’s response rate comes from the internet.
With the self-response rate in Southington being 78.9% in 2010, Phillips is happy that the town has increased that number a bit.
“It means more people are self-responding than they did back in 2010 and I don’t know what the final numbers are going to be right now, but it’s probably safe to say it’s going to be up close to the state-wide average,” Phillips said. “... The local count committee has done a great job just communicating the facts and the necessity to partake in the Census because it has everything to do with our representation in Washington and our federal funding ability.”
The final push in Southington, according to Phillips, is just to get the people on the ground to go door to door to enumerate.
In Meriden, the self-response rate is below the statewide average at 66.2%. Mayor Kevin Scarpati said he’s disappointed because he’d like to see the city’s numbers higher.
“Every person that doesn’t get counted equates to nearly $3,000 of federal funding that Meriden will not receive for schools, for road improvements, infrastructure projects, for hospitals, for programs that go directly back to our residents and we should be at as close to 100% as possible,” Scarpati said.
With COVID-19 present this year, Scarpati believes that it played a huge role in the current self-response rate.
“COVID-19 hit and we couldn’t have meetings in person anymore, the subcommittees weren’t getting together as much as they were and the enumerators at the Census got a late start” going door to door, Scarpati said. “I think people were obviously concerned about COVID-19 and their health and wellbeing than filling out the Census. It’s been a very tough year.”
Scarpati said that the Complete Count Committee has worked hard to come up with creative ways to engage with the community. With there now being more time before the Census ends, the committee is working hard to increase the average rate. This includes having the Census present at events, updating the City of Meriden’s website and reminding the community of the deadline.
“We’re working with the Census bureau to ensure that they are aware of any events or gatherings that are happening in our community,” Scarpati said. “For example, we’ve got the farmers market and making sure the Census has a presence there … We have a billboard along I-91 … All of the public meetings we send out friendly reminders.”
Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.