U.S. Census

Some of the paper work used by census takers.

U.S. Census enumerators will soon be knocking on doors where residents haven’t completed their census information throughout Cattaraugus County.

So far, 50.6% of county residents have returned their census forms, filled out the information online or over the telephone, according to Jeff Behler, director of the Census Bureau’s New York State operation.

The coronavirus pandemic “has changed the census dramatically,” Behler said Friday.

Residents have an opportunity for the first time to go online and fill out their information. “It’s been a huge aid,” he said. “It’s the most popular mode. That’s why we give people different options to self-respond.”

Rochester field office personnel will start knocking on doors this coming week, Behler said.

Staff have been trained virtually and specifically to knock on doors and step back 6 feet to wait for the resident to answer. The enumerators will also be wearing masks and carrying hand sanitizer. The emphasis is on safety, Behler said.

There is also an emphasis on security. Enumerators will enter the information on a smartphone. The information is as safe with an enumerator as going online or phoning in the information, Behler said. Census employees are barred from disclosing any information on the census forms — ever.

There is no question about citizenship.

The information the Census is seeking is a snapshot of your household and those living there on April 1, 2020, Behler said.

Cattaraugus County is a little behind the state average of 60.5% and the state is a little behind the 66.5% response rate at this point in the 2010 Census, Behler said.

“Overall, I think we’re doing very well,” he explained. “We are working with (local) partners” to increase the response. Many of the events the Census workers would have attended to promote response to the census have been canceled in this pandemic.

Libraries were a very popular place to promote the Census, but COVID-19 closed them as well.

Behler said Census officials found local food banks were a good place to remind people about returning their census forms or going online and self-reporting. Churches are also encouraging parishioners to fill out their census forms.

At stake are billions of local and state aid for roads, hospitals, Medicaid and Medicare and congressional representation.

Behler said the goal is to complete knocking on doors by the end of September and meet the new Oct. 31 deadline of completing the count. Originally, the door knocking phase would have ended in late July. The coronavirus slowed those efforts, resulting in the extension.

“Our goal is to count everybody in the U.S.,” Behler said. “It’s a picture of the nation” on April 1, 2020.

Enumerators will have an official badge, photo ID and smart phone with a Census sticker on the back, Behler said. “Anyone with concerns should call (844) 330-2020 for appointment verification.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)