“In the political climate in which we live, immigrant and refugee populations, LGBTQ folks, and really anyone who doesn’t trust the government is going to be hesitant to report.”
Two months after the launch of the 2020 Census, 37% of Massachusetts households still haven’t filled out their forms.
Still, the Bay State’s overall response rate ranks 20th in the nation.
Many local groups are helping raise awareness because the census is used to divvy up federal funds.
Pam Nourse, executive director of the Federation for Children with Special Needs, says her group has put up a series of ads in bus shelters.
“It’s particularly important that children with special needs are counted so they can benefit from federally funded services like education, transportation, housing,” Nourse said.
In 2010, more than 20,000 Massachusetts children younger than age five were left out of the count.
Last week, census workers began leaving paper forms at homes that have not yet submitted the 10 question census.
Tammy Mello, executive director of the Children’s League of Massachusetts, says certain communities tend to be under-counted because many people don’t want to give out their personal information.
“In the political climate in which we live, immigrant and refugee populations, LGBTQ folks, and really anyone who doesn’t trust the government is going to be hesitant to report,” Mello said.
Judy Zaunbrecher, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, said her group reassures people that their privacy will be respected.
“It is not shared outside of the Census Bureau with other federal agencies,” she stressed. “It is not shared with landlords, not shared with local government, et. cetera, so we do emphasize the confidentiality.”
Census workers who divulge anyone’s personal information risk up to 5 years in jail and a $250,000 fine.
You can go online at census.gov to fill out the forms or get the number to call to do the survey over the phone.
Suzanne Potter is a journalist with 30 years of experience as a reporter for TV, radio and print news. She spent 15 years as a local TV news reporter in Palm Springs, CA and Providence, RI. She currently covers public policy California, producing radio and print stories for Public News Service.