Over half of Ohio and Montgomery County households have responded to the 2020 Census, but Dayton, Trotwood and especially Phillipsburg are lagging behind neighboring communities, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In Ohio, 62.8% of people have responded, ranking seventh in the nation.
Fernando Armstrong, regional director of the U.S. Census Bureau, said Montgomery County is exceeding the expectations and projections for the response rate.
Dayton has a 47.7% response rate, which is far below surrounding communities like Centerville, Oakwood and Kettering, which have response rates of 78.7%, 79.8% and 72.3%, respectively.
“We need to do a better job,” said Dayton City Commissioner Jeff Mims Jr.
This will be a major missed opportunity if citizens do not fill out the Census, especially considering that some people wonder why Dayton doesn’t have the same kinds of amenities as surrounding communities, Mims said.
Census population counts are used to determine federal funding distributions, as well as a variety of other important calculations that impact the city, Armstrong said. Census data is also used to determine how many representatives a community gets at the state and federal levels.
“Make sure your friends do it, your family does it, because it means a lot to us,” Mims said.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, census workers had to stop going door-to-door delivering paper 2020 Census forms and following up to try to get an accurate count, Armstrong said. This process will soon resume as the country begins opening back up.
“Our folks aren’t going to answer, unless they go door-to door, and we’re very anxious for that to happen,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said.
Dayton residents are much less likely to have access to broadband Internet, compared to more wealthy communities, Whaley said.
Many Dayton residents are front-line workers, who may not be easy for Census workers to track down at home, since they will be busy at their jobs, she said.
Armstrong said communities that lag behind in responding to the census typically have a large immigrant population or have a lot of people who move around frequently. He said he is not sure that is a factor in the lower response rate in Dayton.
Trotwood’s response rate was also lower than many communities in Montgomery County at 49%.
Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald said that the lack of face-to-face connection is also a barrier in Trotwood.
“Everyone is feeling very disconnected from each other right now,” McDonald said.
Trotwood is about 27% seniors, McDonald said, so the fact that senior centers in town are on lockdown due to the coronavirus makes it difficult to get those people to fill out the 2020 Census.
“There’s not that face-to-face contact that it sometimes takes to get people to fill out the census,” McDonald said.
The Memorial Day tornadoes also play a role in the lower response rate in Trotwood, McDonald said. For people still recovering from the tornadoes, filling out the census is not top of mind, she said.
The village of Phillipsburg had an 11.6% response rate, the lowest in the region.
Phillipsburg Mayor Becky Ford said that in order to get that response rate up, she plans to start offering the community center as a place for people to fill out the census online on Saturdays. Starting May 23, Ford said she would help anyone who wants to complete the 2020 Census.
“We got to do something to get that number up,” Ford said. “We need to make our residents aware of how important the census is.”
Ford said she hoped the coronavirus didn’t keep people from coming out and completing their census.
Centerville had one of the highest response rates in the county, at nearly 79%.
City Manager Wayne Davis said the city has run 2020 Census promotions in Centerville’s quarterly newsletter and posted articles with information on the 2020 Census on the city website and city social media pages.
The city even coordinated with Recruiting Assistant Tracy Williams to promote the availability of local jobs with the Census Bureau, Davis said.
“I think most families understand the importance of getting an accurate census count and how that can impact funding for important infrastructure like schools and roads, drawing legislative districts and, ultimately, their quality of life,” Davis said. “Being able to complete the census online for the first time made responding much more convenient.”
Armstrong said once the Census Bureau starts going out and following up with people, he is confident response rates would go up.
“There are some cities where it just takes a little more work to get the word out and get a response,” Armstrong said.
Dayton Daily News reporter Cornelius Frolik contributed to this story.
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