TOWANDA — The Bradford County Commissioners heard a presentation during their meeting at the county courthouse Thursday of what to expect in the coming months as the nation prepares to undertake the 2020 census.
United States Census Bureau representative Mike Burger, who covers at least portions of approximately seven northeastern Pennsylvania counties, spoke at Thursday’s meeting.
“My goal is basically to go around to communities and say that the census is happening,” he said. “What I’m hearing is that over the next couple of weeks — beginning as soon as Aug. 18 until Oct. 1 — what is going to happen is called address canvassing. What that means is that people with vetted background checks will be coming through communities all across the country just to verify the addresses match up with the names that are on data files.”
Burger explained that the next step after that would be to gather more information, and the actual census would be begin in February.
“That will be institutional, such as retirement homes, nursing homes, colleges, universities — of which Bradford County doesn’t really have a whole lot to worry about,” he said.
Burger stated that residents may start getting census information in the mail by March.
“It’s going to be a little different this year,” he said. “It’s still going to be the regular, perforated envelope. We are all used to opening it, filling in the holes and sending it back. But the census is also going to be doing a phone option this year.”
The phone option will include landlines as well as smartphones, Burger noted. The census can also be completed online via personal computer — all of which are secure options, he said.
He explained that expanding the options of which people can use to respond to the census will encourage participation in the program to help with low-response areas.
Burger said responses to the census help out their local communities by aiding in the awarding of grant monies in future programs.
The average no-response score in Bradford County is between 18 and 19 percent, he added.
“Generally, the higher the population of a county, the lower the response rate is,” he said. “So what we’re saying in the case of Bradford County, is that one out of five people aren’t responding to the census based on 2010 data.”
Burger noted that translates to about 5,000 non-respondents in Bradford County, which affects the county’s apportionment to the United States House of Representatives.
“That’s the number one goal of the census,” he said. “The number two goal of the census is to distribute $675 billion that come down from the federal government in discretionary monies. That includes children and youth, roads, highways, water projects — whatever the case may be.
“If counties and municipalities are not counted correctly, that money goes someplace else — to the tune of about $2,000 per person per year over the 10 cycle of the census,” Burger continued. “Those are the simple facts, and my job is just to outreach and be present and visible in the communities I travel to.”
Burger stated he would also be traveling to school districts throughout the area in the future to inform staff and school board members of the census.
Burger added that the census also means the federal government will be engaging in its largest national hiring process outside of wartime, and his region will be looking to fill approximately 600 part-time positions over the next several months.