Summit County’s census response rate is lagging, potentially costing the county millions in federal funding.
For every household that doesn’t respond to the 2020 Census, officials say, Summit County stands to lose out on more than $50,000 in federal funding over the next 10 years.
And considering nearly half of the households in Summit County didn’t respond in 2010, that might be cause for worry.
As of Wednesday, the county’s self-response rate was approximately 28%, about half of the state’s overall response rate, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The response rate varies among the county’s municipalities, with Francis hitting 53%, while Oakley is at 16%.
In Park City, the county’s most populous city, only 15% of households had responded. In 2010, Park City’s response rate was one of the highest in the county at 67%.
One reason the Park City rate might be so low is that many of its residents receive their mail through a P.O. box.
Census spokesperson Coralys M. Ruiz Jiménez explained that 95% of U.S. households will receive an invitation to participate in the census by mail, a letter that includes an individual identification number and instructions about how to complete the process online.
But the Census Bureau doesn’t send those invitations to P.O. boxes. The plan was to deliver them in person to the roughly 5% of households that didn’t receive one in the mail, but the pandemic has forced the bureau to pull its workers from the field.
Ruiz Jiménez said the bureau will resume its normal operations when it is safe to do so, but that in the meantime people can still participate in the census without a formal invitation by visiting 2020census.gov.
Jeff Jones, the county’s economic development director and the staffer charged with leading up the census effort locally, said the county needs to get its response rate higher to receive its fair share of funding and political representation.
Months ago, Jones recommended the county spend $10,000 on an outreach effort, and he worked together with a Complete Count Committee to put the drive together.
But the COVID-19 pandemic means census drop boxes, signs and other materials created to boost turnout are sitting unused.
“The coronavirus pandemic has shifted our priorities and changed our lives but we have to remember that the census is still taking place and we have to remember the stakes are too high not to complete the census,” Jones wrote in an email. “(The census) is essential to ensure states, cities and municipalities are allocated enough financial resources to address the health, social-service, educational and other needs of their residents.”
In 2000, Summit County had a 44% response rate for the census and Utah lost out on an extra congressional seat by 81 votes, according to data supplied by the county.
In 2010, the rate was up to 55%. If the same holds true in 2020, the county stands to lose about $45 million from the federal government in the next 10 years compared to what it would receive if everybody participated.
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