Census deadline nears; county better than a decade ago

Last minute call to respond by Sept. 30

More than half of Maui County residents have responded to the 2020 Census so far — a 5 percentage point increase from the previous high — but county officials advise that there is still time to self-report before the end-of-the-month deadline.

“We ask for everyone’s kokua in continuing to drive our state’s total percentage as close to 100 percent as possible,” Maui County Mayor Micheal Victorino said Wednesday in a news release.

Responses are due by Sept. 30, but there is a possibility that the deadline will be extended to Oct. 31 in hopes that more people will complete the census during the COVID-19 pandemic. Self-responses can be made online, by mail or phone.

The addition of online filing options is a “major contributing factor” for the 52.6 percent self-response rate among Maui residents, said Bill Snipes, Maui County Census community liaison. Other possible reasons for the increase in responses is the deadline extension to Sept. 30 (the deadline was July 30 for the 2010 census) and extra down time for people to fill out the census due to the pandemic.

The Census Bureau did not report the percentage of enumerator-assisted responses for each county, which will be added to Maui County’s self-response percentage.

Maui’s previous high of 50 percent was in 2000. The rate in 2010 was 49 percent.

However, like past census data collections, Snipes said, “it has been challenging to get residents of geographically harder-to-reach areas to respond.”

“Hopefully, it’s not indifference because there is so much federal money that is distributed to states based on census data,” he added. “We want Hawaii to get our fair share.”

Although privacy concerns also may be a reason for residents not to respond, Snipes reassured the public that the U.S. Census Bureau has taken steps to “maximize confidentiality.” For example, internet replies are encrypted, and it’s a crime for Census officials to disclose data, he said. 

To boost response rates before the deadline, Snipes said that more than 200 enumerators are out in the community knocking on the doors of people who have not yet responded. They carry official credentials and equipment issued by the Census Bureau.

Earlier this month, pop-up events were hosted on Molokai and in Paia and Kihei to boost response rates.

“The credit goes to our county residents, the members of Maui County’s Complete Count Committee that I formed in April 2019, and to the support given to the county by the state CCC and their consultant, the Hawaii Community Foundation,” Victorino said in the news release. “In addition, the federal Census Bureau has enumerators fanned out across our county to follow up in person with households who have yet to respond. 

“This will increase our rate of total responses.”

More than 360,000 households have responded statewide, including 62.3 percent of Hawaii residents by self-response and 35.9 percent with assistance, according to the news release.

As of Sunday, about 97.3 million U.S. households have responded to the census with 65.8 percent self-responses and 26 percent enumerator-assisted.

The census is a count of everyone living in the United States and is mandated by the U.S. Constitution. Census data are used to apportion congressional seats, to distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds to tribal, state and local governments and to make decisions about what community services to provide, the Census Bureau said.

To respond to the 2020 Census, visit 2020census.gov. 

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.


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