Completing Census questionnaire helps towns get their ‘fair share’

Sat, 06/20/2020 - 7:15am

Maine is around last in the 2020 Census questionnaire response rate, with several Lincoln County towns – including Southport, Boothbay Harbor and Boothbay – among those least responsive. Since mid-March, every U.S. resident could complete the questionnaire online or by phone for the first time in history and paper questionnaires have been available since mid-April.

According to the Bureau’s self-response map, as of June 15, out of Maine’s 488 cities and townships, self-response rates in Lincoln County towns are: Monhegan, #482, 7.5%, Southport, #452, 19.3%; Boothbay Harbor, #411, 29.5%; South Bristol, #407, 30.2%; Bristol, #372, 34.7%; Boothbay, #362, 36.1%; Bremen, #342, 38.3%; Westport Island, #266, 44.9%; Jefferson, #261, 45.5%; Edgecomb, #251, 46.1%; Somerville, #230, 47.5%; Damariscotta, #228, 47.7%; Nobleboro, #214, 49.4%; Newcastle #191, 51.4%; Waldoboro, #185, 51.7%; Wiscasset, #107, 58%; Alna, #70, 61.4%; Dresden, #66, 61.8%; and Whitefield, #47, 64.2%.

The questionnaire does more than making sure every person counts in the decennial affair, said Boothbay Harbor Selectman Wendy Wolf. Population numbers also dictate how federal spending reaches every state, county, city and town in the U.S. and its territories. It also provides data determining congressional and state legislative districts and how many seats every state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“It drives the distribution of billions of dollars’ worth of federal and state resources for housing, food support, social services and other services,” Wolf said. “Locally, we use the data to make a wide array of decisions as well … (especially) comprehensive plans which guide the current and future use of municipal services.”

Population trends also track growth or fall of year-round home ownership and different age groups so local programs like pre-school or Meals on Wheels will have appropriate funding, Wolf continued. “We want everyone in our community to complete their Census form so we can get our fair share of state and federal support.”

The George Washington University Institute of Public Policy published a study in February based on 2017 federal spending. It estimated just over $1.5 trillion in federal funds will be distributed to all 50 states and five territories – 47.2% or $710.2 billion will go toward Medicare, 24.5% or $368.4 billion to Medicaid, and 28.3% or $425.6 billion to other programs. According to the study, Maine is likely to receive about $7.5 billion.

Lower numbers do not necessarily mean a large chunk of a town’s residents are not responding. Response rates are based on how many homes receiving a questionnaire complete it. According to federalregister.gov, residence criteria dictate that second home owners claiming residence elsewhere must complete a Census questionnaire for that home marking its occupancy as 0.

From mid-June to October, Census takers will visit homes that have not responded; however, citizens and non-citizens can still complete the questionnaire throughout this process. If you have not responded to the Census, go to: https://my2020census.gov/