The clock is counting down to fill out the 2020 census.
The September 30 deadline looms in a time like none other in our country - a pandemic.
“I think people’s minds have been in a whole lot of other places, so the timing couldn’t be worse,” said Leonard Banco of Hartford, who has filled out his form.
Despite the challenges of collecting census data during the coronavirus crisis, Census Bureau NY Regional Office Director Jeff Behler said census collection has been rather “amazing” in Connecticut, with just under a 70% response for residents who filled out the form by mail, phone, or online.
"You get one opportunity every 10 years and taking five to 10 minutes is an investment in the next 10 years for your community,” said Behler.
But despite his high remarks, the return rates aren’t that amazing everywhere.
As of Monday, less than 50% of Hartford residents have self-responded, for example, and that can mean much needed, future funding could be cut short.
"Programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, SNAP, WIC. When we look at the infrastructure of our communities from the roads, bridges, tunnels, mass transit systems, again, the money that's coming into the community will be based on formulas using Census data,” said Behler.
“Services like school lunches, ESL classes that the Hartford Public Library officers, those kinds of things are funded through numbers from the census," said Leticia Cotto, the Hartford Public Library’s customer experience officer.
Health care services, emergency response support, and voting districts are also impacted by census data.
"Connecticut will use this data at the state level to do their redistricting, drawing their voting precincts, their school districts," said Behler.
The Hartford Public Library hopes events like one they held at the Dwight Library Monday can motivate Hartford residents to respond.
Cotto said people shy away from filling out the census out for fear of their safety.
“A citizenship question was going to be put on the census, but it was not,” she said as an example.
She and others working at the library want people to know it’s completely safe. Census takers have to keep your information private.
“They by law have to ensure privacy and confidentiality of information, and if not they go to jail.”
Farther south, New London’s response rate isn’t all that much higher than Hartford’s.
Monday, the city’s mayor put into perspective how taking 10 minutes to fill out the form can make a world of a difference in your community,
“In round numbers, it’s about $3,000 a person, so 4% of the population in New London could end up to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue in over a 10-year period until we get another opportunity to get counted,” said New London Mayor Michael Passero.
“I’ll definitely fill it out, especially for my little man, I need my future to be right,” said Bryson Walton of West Hartford, who says he’ll be checking with his wife to see if she’s filled out their family’s census now that he’s learned how much it impacts those he loves.
Juanita Williams of Hartford was glad to fill out the form.
"So that the politicians can know that we’re all around and especially the minority and the older people like myself," said Williams.
Others we spoke to hope more people to so soon, especially as pandemic struggles continue.
“How federal aid gets proportioned to the cities and states and a whole bunch of other things, so I think it’s really important for the count to be accurate,” said Banco.