Many in Indiana and neighboring counties already have responded to the 2020 United States Census.
Statewide “self-response” so far, where residents responded without being prodded to letters inviting them to take part in the census, is 22.3 percent, above the 21 percent reported nationally so far.
“Ultimately, a response rate of 100 percent will mean that your school district, municipality, city, county and social service program will receive its maximum share of federal funding for the next 10 years,” said Richard A. Buck, a veteran Philadelphia-based partnership specialist with the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
The decennial count has other importance, too.
“It directly impacts representation in Congress,” said Josh Krug, chairman of the Indiana County Complete Count Committee, “at the national level as well as redistricting boundaries of representation by elected officials and funding and other allocations at all levels of government, non-profit, and social services, all the way down to the local and municipal level.”
As of Tuesday, Indiana County’s response has been 21.2 percent, including 13.5 percent doing so via the internet.
That’s in the middle of the pack in west-central Pennsylvania. By comparison, Westmoreland County is at 24.2 percent, Cambria County is at 21.3 percent, Clearfield County is at 20.4 percent, Armstrong County is at 19.9 percent, and Jefferson County is at 18.2 percent, all that according to figures gathered a week before the official April 1 start of the census.
“We are continuing our efforts with a specific focus on encouragement and motivation toward self-response via online and phone methods, as they are the most efficient means to complete the count,” Krug said. “Folks will begin receiving a mail-in form at home starting on April 8 if they did not complete the Census online or by phone.”
Indiana Borough, as one intact municipality, has a return rate of 18.9 percent so far.
Broken up by its three census tracts, the two outside the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus came in at 27.5 percent and 24.8 percent, respectively, while that including the campus only reported 11.5 percent so far.
Surrounding White Township is at 24.1 percent, with 23.6 responding online.
Across Indiana County, Smicksburg has the best response rate so far (43.3 percent), followed on the other end of the county by Conemaugh Township (38.7) and Blacklick Township (37.5).
Bringing up the rear are Creekside at 2.3 percent, Plumville (2.2), Ernest (1.4), and Glen Campbell (0.8), with Cherry Tree at zero response so far.
A fast response isn’t necessarily a sign that 100 percent response will occur before the last census taker knocks on doors later this year. In 2010, Smicksburg wound up at 61.5 percent, Indiana at 62.5 percent, White Township at 75.8 percent and Indiana County as a whole at 65.4 percent.
“Census workers will come to visit households that do not self-respond starting in May,” Krug said. “This is all assuming no delays or changes to the proposed operations schedule of the U.S. Census Bureau on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Census promoters, including the various stakeholders on the Indiana County Complete Count Committee, have stressed the ease of the questionnaire responders are asked to answer.
“The whole thing takes about 10 minutes and is very easy to fill out,” Krug said. “We want to continue to dispel any concerns regarding privacy and confidentiality as well. All information is kept confidential by law.”
More information about the census can be found at www.2020census.gov.