By Joel Hall
With today marking the mail-in deadline for the 2010 Census form, workers in Clayton are continuing to encourage citizens to mail in their forms.
Those who don't make today's deadline, census officials said, likely will get a knock on their door in May.
According to Kim Siebert, chairman of the Clayton County Complete Count Committee, the county's participation in the 2010 Census has lagged behind other metro counties. While Clayton's participation reached the 60 percent mark on Thursday, the county is below the state participation rate of 65 percent, and the national participation rate of 68 percent.
"In the metro area, we have the lowest participation rate right now," Siebert said. "I'm hoping with the efforts now, and the follow-up efforts going on, I am hopeful that we will get to the levels we had in [the year] 2000, or exceed that." According to Siebert, the county's final participation rate in 2000 was 67 percent.
Census participation rates in other metro counties, as of Thursday, showed Henry at 71 percent, Fayette at 77 percent, Spalding at 69 percent, Rockdale at 66 percent, Douglas at 67 percent, Fulton at 63 percent, Cobb at 68 percent, Gwinnett at 66 percent, and DeKalb at 64 percent.
Siebert said a high number of Clayton residents complained that they have not received their census forms in the mail. She said Clayton also faces the challenge of higher numbers of "hard-to-reach communities," including lower-income and immigrant households.
"We have challenges now that we didn't have in 2000," she said. "Our population is much larger ... we have a higher number of single-parent households, more low-income households, and more immigrant households, and all of those are hard-to-reach households. The first mailing was in March and the second mailing was about two weeks ago, and many people didn't get theirs in the second mailing, including myself," she added.
Siebert said residents may still pick up census forms from unstaffed "Be Counted" centers, or staffed Questionnaire Assistance Centers, located at all of the county's branch libraries, local recreation centers, and the Clayton County Cooperative Extension office, located at 1262 Government Circle in Jonesboro.
Gloria Solomon, a U.S. Census Bureau partnership specialist assigned to Clayton County, said citizens will have to act quickly, in order to avoid being placed on the county's "non-response follow up" list, however. She said that on Monday, April 19, the county will shut down all of its "Be Counted" and Questionnaire Assistance Centers.
"Everything has a cutoff," Solomon said. "[After April 16], what they will do is tabulate everyone who has sent in that form. The people who have not sent them will be counted as non-response follow up. What you don't want to happen is that you have already sent in the form and somebody is knocking at your door."
Solomon said mailing is the preferred method to receive census forms, because while the government pays 42 cents for individual mailers, it pays Census workers an average of $57 per house visit. Census workers may visit a home up to six times in order to retrieve census information from the occupant, she said.
According to Solomon, census workers will continue to encourage residents to mail in their census forms at various community events taking place over the weekend. She said she is happy with Clayton County's 60 percent participation rate, but that she would like to see it higher.
"That is what the government uses to allocate $400 billion a year," said Solomon. "The [congressional] districts are redrawn based on the population. We might gain districts seats. Just filling out the form will help the community."
Those who did not receive a census form may call 1-866-872-6868 (in English), 1-866-928-2010 (in Spanish), 1-866-935-2010 (in Chinese), 1-866-955-2010 (in Korean), 1-866-945-2010 (in Vietnamese), 1-866-965-2010 (in Russian), or 1-866-783-2010 (for the hearing impaired), for assistance between now and April 20.