The U.S. Census Bureau has identified Haverstraw village, Kaser, New Square and Spring Valley as the most difficult places in Rockland to get residents to mail back their census survey or respond to visits by census takers. There are a number of reasons why people don’t mail back their questionnaires, officials said. Some are living in the United States illegally and fear being exposed. Others might be crammed into housing and don’t want anyone to know. Some don’t speak English, or are simply reluctant to divulge personal information, or are not aware that they must fill out the form or risk being fined.
Whatever the reasons, Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence said parts of Rockland, such as Spring Valley, were “woefully undercounted” in the census, which takes place every 10 years.
The 2010 census forms – 10 questions that can be filled out in less than 10 minutes – will be mailed in February and March as the federal government seeks to account for every man, woman and child living within its borders.
Census Day is April 1, 2010.
In 2000, Rockland’s response rate was 68 percent – 1 percent higher than the national rate.
This time around, the goal is to reach 71 percent in Rockland, Ligia Jaquez, New York deputy regional director for the Census Bureau, said yesterday in New City.
“We’re looking for an increase of 3 percent with the mail returns,” Jaquez said. “The others that we don’t get, we’re going to go and knock on their doors.”
Jaquez said that census employees have already completed address canvassing – that is, updating its address list – in Rockland.
To boost response, the county is once again turning to community, business and government leaders to spread the word. They are members of the county’s Census 2010 Complete Count Committee, which was formed by County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoeff.
Representing a cross section of the county’s cultural and religious diversity, committee members will develop strategies over the next few months to encourage residents in hard-to-reach communities to return their census forms.
Ronaldo Figueroa, co-chairman of the committee, said it was important to explain that the data collected helps the entire community, by paying for road repairs, new schools and hospitals.
Federal agencies use formulas based on population to figure out how much money to give. Counties, towns and villages that are undercounted get less funding.
“There is this window of opportunity with this census to have a good, solid snapshot of your community,” Figueroa said during a news conference yesterday in New City.
The county successfully challenged the Census Bureau’s population estimates for Rockland in 2005, 2006 and 2007, getting the figure raised by more than 3,000 people, said committee co-chairman Michael D’Angelo, who works as a research coordinator for the county’s planning department.
As a result, Rockland’s official population now stands at 298,545.
County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef said an accurate number was crucial for county residents to get their fair share of funding.
“It’s not just important that we know where people are and (that) we count them,” Vanderhoef said, but “it’s also important for the purposes of aid and assistance.”
County Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell noted the updated numbers will be used to draw new lines for legislative redistricting.
Avrohom Moskovits, a Monsey resident and marketing assistant for the Census Bureau, said the goal is to talk to “every synagogue, every school, every community-based organization” in Monsey to reach Orthodox Jews.
The response rate in the hamlet was about 50 percent in 2000.
That’s partly because many residents are not aware of the census so they ignore the forms, he said.
“Anything that’s not important or doesn’t seem to be important just gets thrown into the garbage, which is why this time there is a bigger outreach,” Moskovits said.