Friday, April 9, 2010

Many residents still waiting for census forms

Bureau says delivery process still in progress

Express Staff Writer

Census worker Donald Lappin, right, discusses the 10-question survey with Eric Farrell. Lappin is handing out census forms at Atkinsons Market in Ketchum. Photo by David N. Seelig

Sally Donart is one of many Ketchum-area residents yet to receive a census form dropped at their doorsteps. And with April 1 being the highly publicized Census Day when the questionnaire is supposed to be mailed back, Donart is worried she's missed her chance to be counted.

It's a problem made even worse since 83-year-old Donart, who lives on Cottonwood Drive in the Lake Creek area, is housebound.

"If nobody comes to the door, I'm out of luck," she said.

Census forms are usually mailed to residences, but Sun Valley and Ketchum only have P.O. boxes. And P.O. boxes aren't included in census mailings, meaning workers have to walk up to the door of every apartment and home in the area to hand out the form.

Sergio Romero, census director for the Idaho Falls region, which includes the Wood River Valley, said not to worry.

"Workers are still out knocking on doors," he said.

Romero said that even though Census Day has passed, people technically have until April 22 to postmark the 10-question survey. Until then, census workers will be on the streets going door to door.

If people are worried that they've been missed, they can pick up a census form at city halls and Atkinsons' Markets. Also, the form can be completed over the phone from April 12-22 by calling (866) 872-6868 for English and (866) 928-2010 for Spanish. To find other languages' phone numbers, go to

Participation is considered vital because the federal government uses the population data to help determine distribution of $400 billion in federal funds to state and local governments every year, for schools, roads, health care and other critical programs. That's $4 trillion in funding between censuses taken every decade. The information is also used to allocate seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and to redistrict state legislatures.

Improved participation rates

So far, all Blaine County cities except Hailey have a higher percentage of people mailing back their census forms compared to the last census in 2000, according to the Census Bureau's daily report of "mail participation rate."

Sun Valley has increased its score to 24 percent, up 7 points from 2000's final tally. But the city is still far below all others. Participation rate changes from 2000 to 2010 are: in Ketchum 34 to 63 percent, in Hailey 68 to 56 percent, in Bellevue 57 to 59 percent, and in Carey 74 to 76 percent.

Despite the valley's overall improvement, Idaho's participation rate dropped from 75 to 66 percent and the nation's rate 72 to 62 percent.

But participation rates only calculate the percentage of forms mailed back from people who received them in the first place. This rate is accurate when forms are all mailed out at once in an area. However, forms are flowing to residents at a trickle in the northern Wood River Valley because of the hand-delivered process. And if a good number of residents in the north valley haven't been handed a form yet, they aren't included in the participation rate one way or the other. That means the participation rate, though seemingly improved, is actually lower than 63 percent of total residents in Ketchum and 24 percent of those in Sun Valley.

It's impossible to know precisely what percentage of the north valley's population haven't had their doors knocked on yet, since determining population is the purpose of the census. One thing's for sure: People are still waiting.

Kelly Ek, city clerk for Sun Valley and the city's census liaison, lives in Ketchum and said she has yet to receive a form, as have her neighbors. Several Sun Valley residents have also told her they're still waiting on their questionnaires.

She said it should show up eventually, but people don't have to wait and worry.

"If you're really set on doing it now, you can pick one up," Ek said.

Trevon Milliard:

Census assistance centers

The U.S. Census Bureau has set up mobile assistance centers in Idaho's hard-to-count areas like the Wood River Valley, open until April 19. The only one in the area is at Pequenita International Market at 735 N. Main St. in Bellevue, but stationary assistance centers are already in place at Atkinsons' Markets in Bellevue, Hailey and Ketchum. The other locations are Albertsons in Hailey, the Hunger Coalition in Bellevue, Community Campus in Hailey, the Wood River Community YMCA in Ketchum and city halls.

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