More than 55% of Fairfield County has been counted in 2020 census
Even as the state copes with the effects of the coronavirus, Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz says Connecticut is still “well ahead” of the national average in responses to the 2020 U.S. Census.
More than 55 percent of Fairfield County has participated, led by Darien at nearly 66 percent, Westport at 65 percent and New Canaan at 63 percent, Bysiewicz said Tuesday during a virtual town hall with local leaders about the census.
“Connecticut was well ahead of the national average,” Bysiewicz said. “We were at 56.2 percent of our households having self-responded, and the national average is 53.4 percent. And we are leading the New England region, so we’re ahead of the seven states and Puerto Rico that make up the region.”
Bysiewicz said all of the participation has been done online or through the census 800 number. She also credited the state’s Complete Count Committees for the strong start.
“One of the reasons that we are ahead of the curve is because we’ve had 156 local Complete Count Committees across our state, working very hard at the grassroots level to make sure people responded to the census,” Bysiewicz said.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged municipalities to develop ways of reaching citizens without face-to-face contact.
For every person who is not counted, municipalities forego $2,900 of federal funding per year. Since the census is taken every 10 years, that adds up to nearly $30,000 of missed funding for each person who is not counted.
“The major point that all of us need to be making to our constituents is filling out the census is something that we can do that directly can help our communities,” Bysiewicz said, “Whether it’s disaster relief, Medicaid and Medicare funding, or SNAP funding, (in) which we’ve seen an increase demand by four-fold for those food programs.”
Jeff Behler, director for the U.S. Census Bureau’s New York regional office, said paper questionnaires had been mailed and should reach every household that hasn’t responded by the end of the week.
Norwalk, which has a response rate of nearly 56 percent, according to 2020census.gov, faces some unique challenges, according to Mayor Harry Rilling.
Some of the efforts have included hanging banners and posters at the city’s 11 food distribution sites during the pandemic, distributing census materials with meals, mailers, working with the NAACP to share information with its “outreach bags,” and including pamphlets while handing out masks and face coverings.
“Norwalk is a very diverse community and we perhaps have challenges that some of the other communities may not have regarding getting our people engaged,” Rilling said. “But we do have a very effective team of elected leaders, knowledge leaders, business people, clergy, and citizens throughout the community, and we’re stepping up our efforts.”
In addition to Rilling, municipal leaders from Stamford, Westport, New Canaan and Darien participated in the virtual town hall. The meeting also included Sens. Alex Kasser, D-Greenwich, and Will Haskell, D-Westport, state Reps. Caroline Simmons, D-Stamford, David Michel, D-Stamford, and Matt Blumenthal, D-Stamford.
Blumenthal encouraged citizens to participate in the census, reassuring them of the confidential process.
“The personal information that you share with the census is completely confidential. It is not connected with any other government function,” he said. “That is a point we need to emphasize to everybody, but especially in places like Stamford where in our immigrant communities because there is some nervousness in those communities about sharing information with the government.”