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    Friday, August 19, 2022

    Groton launches efforts for complete count in 2020 Census

    Groton — Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz stood alongside local officials and community members on Monday to share the message that every person should be counted in the 2020 Census and that local efforts will be vital in getting the word out that the census is important and safe.

    At the event at the Groton Town Hall Annex, Groton officials announced that the town and city each are forming a Complete Count Committee that will partner with local constituencies and reach out to the community about the importance of completing the census.

    Bysiewicz said the state's Complete Count Committee, which launched in February, includes more than 100 organizations that are partnering in the effort to ensure the state is participating in the census in the most complete way.

    "The governor and I wanted to start a Complete Count Committee because $11 billion in funding at the federal level is riding on this effort for Connecticut, and this is a monumental effort to count every one of the more than 3.5 million people in our state," she said, "so it's going to require a very organized effort that engages people at the grassroots level in every municipality in our state."

    Members of the Lamont administration are traveling to municipalities across the state, including previous visits to Norwich and New London, with Groton marking the 23rd community visited. 

    The decennial census helps decide the allocation to states of more than $675 billion, according to the Census website. Bysiewicz said Connecticut currently receives almost $11 billion a year in federal funding that goes directly to municipalities for programs, including Head Start, Medicaid programs, SNAP, and highway and road projects. 

    Town Manager John Burt reiterated that many grants that affect everyone in the community are tied into population numbers so it's drastically important that everyone participate to realize a complete count.

    Businesses also use the data to decide where to locate new housing, stores, and manufacturing facilities, Bysiewicz said. Political representation at the state and federal level depend upon a complete and accurate count, she added.

    But she said counting everyone in the diverse state is not without its challenges. Twenty-five percent of the state has hard to count areas, including urban areas such as the Groton-New London area. The digital divide poses another challenge as not everyone has internet access, said Bysiewicz.

    She also said the controversy over including a citizenship question has discouraged some people in communities of color and immigrant communities from coming forward.

    "We want to get the message out that it is important for everyone, whether they are documented or not, to fill out the census because that information is kept confidential," she said. "It can only be used for statistical purposes, and it is very safe to complete the census and that is why our partners are so important in this effort."

    Keith Goralski, media specialist for the New York Regional Census Center, emphasized that federal law protects every piece of data collected, so no information that identifies a person or household can be released.

    He said people can respond online or by phone, with 12 non-English language options available, or, if they prefer, they can fill out a paper census form. For people who have not filled out the form, census takers will knock on doors.

    He added that jobs to assist with the census effort are available. More information is available at https://www.census.gov/jobs.

    Groton Town, Groton City Committees

    During Monday's event, Albert Colon, a community member who will be helping with translation for Groton's outreach efforts, shared a message in Spanish that the census is safe, easy and important.

    State Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton, pointed out that the data from the last census is about 10 years old, so it's extremely important to get updated data on where people live and what their needs are.

    The city and town will be partnering in the effort to ensure everyone is counted, City Mayor Keith Hedrick said.

    The town has formed a Complete Count Committee, chaired by Elizabeth Porter, a retired department head at Robert E. Fitch High School, that will partner with other groups in town, such as the League of Women Voters and the Naval Submarine Base, and focus on outreach and publicizing the importance of completing the census, said Town Mayor Patrice Granatosky. Granatosky said people interested in volunteering can email her at pgranatosky@groton-ct.gov and she will put them in touch with Porter.

    The city also will form its own committee, which will work with the town's, Hedrick said.

    Hedrick said he recognizes that there is a fear out there that the information from the census could be used against people, and he's trying to get the word out that that's not the case.

    "It is important to me that everyone is counted for this census," Hedrick added after the event. "There is an attempt at the federal level to suppress the count and I want to bring people out of the shadows so that every person is counted regardless of nationality or place of origin."

    Bysiewicz said organizations and entities, from chambers of commerce to community health centers, have been invited to help in the census effort.

    Cristina Negron, representing the League of Women Voters, said the local chapter is dedicated to helping the effort, and Groton Public Library Director Jennifer Miele said the library is fully on board to assist in the success of the census. Adam Wright, community planning and liaison office, with the Naval Submarine Base New London, said the base also will be helping get the word out about the census.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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