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New London census responses lag behind state average

New London — The city’s response rate to the 2020 Census is lagging behind the state average and the local Complete Count Committee is making a renewed push for residents to take part.

The initiative involves a new social media contest, stickers on city vehicles and banners recently placed at key locations throughout the city announcing “Your voice counts. Complete the census today.”

The committee is launching an online Census Challenge via Facebook, called "New London Counts.” Judi Cox, a loan specialist in the city's Office of Development and Planning, created the challenge as a way to appeal to residents’ competitive nature.

“We’ll post regular updates about our city’s response rate and ask people to comment on our posts after they complete their Census. As the end of the challenge New London residents who have commented will be entered in a drawing for one of several prizes that have been donated,” Cox said.

The city’s response rate as of last week was 53.6%, behind the state average of 64%, said Karen Fischer, co-chair of the Complete Count Committee. The city’s response rate is higher in the city’s south end at 64.5% compared to the downtown area, where less than 43% have responded, she said.

Fischer said there has been challenges to getting the word out, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic struck and religious institutions halted large gatherings. She said the committee is looking to organize phone trees within community organizations and faith groups. With some loosening of state restrictions surrounding COVID-19, she said the committee plans more appearances at public spaces in the near future.

A lot is at stake in getting everyone counted, since the census numbers determine the number of representatives in the House of Representatives and the amount of federal funds flowing to city services.

Complete Count Committee Co-Chair Nick Fischer said New London may have been undercounted by as many as 2,000 people in the 2000 census. Since each resident generates about $2,900 in federal funds, it amounts to $60 million over 10 years, he said.

Considering the city’s large immigrant population, Karen Fischer said one of the committee’s key goals is to overcome the fear and mistrust about the possible misuse of collected census information. It is a violation of federal law to use information for law enforcement and immigration purposes. Census information remains confidential for 72 years.

The committee continues to work with a coalition of partners to get the word out. The Garde Arts Center has contributed advertising space and outreach efforts and Blu-Prints Unlimited Inc. has donated printing services for stickers and banners.

The Census was originally scheduled to end mid-July. It has been extended to Oct. 15. Census enumerators or "door knockers"will be making visits to New London households that have not completed the Census later this summer.

The Complete Count Committee encourages everyone to complete the Census now by completing the form that was mailed to all households, going online to my2020census.gov, or calling (844) 330-2020. The Census can be completed in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole and many other languages.

g.smith@theday.com

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