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Officials share census message for military families: 'You count here'

Groton — Standing at a podium in the SUBASE Youth Center, Naval Submarine Base Commanding Officer Capt. Todd Moore shared a message about the U.S. census for local military personnel and their families: “You count here.”

While active-duty military and their families move around a lot, they count where they reside at the time of the census — not their home state, not where they previously were stationed or where they will be stationed next, and not where their vehicle may be registered, he explained.

By completing the census where they reside, they will “help provide all these services to future generations of military members stationed here and their children,” Moore said.

He was speaking at an event Thursday with Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, local and state officials representing the Groton-New London area, and Eva Bunnell from the U.S. Census Bureau's New York Regional Office to raise awareness about the importance of the census.

State Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton, said the military community has been historically undercounted, yet children from military families make up 20% of Groton’s school population.

To ensure the school system and the community receive their proper share of federal dollars and programs, it’s important that everyone counts, she said. Even though a Navy family who lives here in April 2020 may be somewhere else in the next 10 years, there likely will be another military family with children in the school system in their place.

Groton Town Mayor Patrice Granatosky said “the Navy community is vital to the town” and encouraged people to complete the census.

Bysiewicz said Connecticut has a 66.4% self-response rate, above the national rate. Groton City has a 66.6% response rate, Groton Town has a 67.3% response rate, and New London has a 56.3% response rate.

She encouraged people to go online to 2020census.gov to fill out the census, or respond by phone, with multiple languages available.

Bysiewicz said census workers are beginning to knock on doors of homes that have not yet responded to the census. At the end of last week, census enumerators, wearing badges, messenger bags with the census logo, and personal protective equipment started in Hartford, Tolland, Windham, and New London counties.

Census mobile questionnaire assistance representatives also were available at the event if anybody wanted help with the census.

Bysiewicz said the census count decides the funding the state will receive for critical programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, Medicare, the National School Lunch Program, road and highway funding and energy assistance for seniors, as well as COVID-19-related funds.

“Literally every family in our state relies on these programs and for every person we miss, we miss out on $2,900 per person per year,” Bysiewicz said.

Groton Representative Town Meeting member Albert Colon, a member of Groton’s Complete Count Committee, shared a message in Spanish about the census during the event, and also recently did a public service announcement.

Groton City Mayor Keith Hedrick said the committee is reaching out to all communities, especially Hispanic communities. He said it’s important that everyone is counted and that he cannot overstate the importance of the census for funding for federal programs and schools.

He encouraged people to participate in the census and said the information will be used for raw statistics, adding that it’s illegal for the Census Bureau to share people’s personal information.

Michael Passero, mayor of New London, considered a “hard to count” community, said the city’s average household income is $40,000, and the average household income for the city’s Black and brown community is below $35,000.

He said completing the census is critical for programs and for representation for the city. He said the city and its complete count committee are determined to get the word out and are proud of the success so far.

Conley also noted that a sign for a Jersey Mike’s is being installed next to the soon-to-open Chipotle on the corner of Route 12 and Toll Gate Road in Groton, and said census data informs business decisions. Businesses have access to census data and know that Groton has a vibrant young community of sailors and their families who may need quick meals.

“This is our opportunity to show the diversity that we have and also to show why businesses should be investing in southeastern Connecticut,” Bysiewicz added.

k.drelich@theday.com

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