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Columbus Lagging In Census Response Rates

Columbus is trailing behind the state and the rest of the nation in Census response rates. Columbus' rate is 61%, while Ohio's overall response rate is 10 points higher at 71%. The National Participation rate is 67%.

Census spokeswoman Carol Hector-Harris is counting on a final push of print, television and radio ads to edge up Columbus' numbers. She says the added publicity has no impact on the Census budget.

"The budget was set last year. Where the ads were going to be placed had everything to do with what the participation would be."

Hector-Harris says there is no shortage of Census workers -called enumerators - to make house calls. The recruiting process for the local Census office has been under way since last December.

"The supervisory level folks are in training now, and then the enumerators will be in training the following week, and as I said, they'll be going out - going door-to-door - the first of May," says Hector-Harris

To avoid a visit from Census workers, Columbus residents should mail back their forms by this Friday, says Hector-Harris.

62 year-old Donald Langston says he already returned his Census questionnaire. Langston says he thinks it's important for maintaining services like education and street repairs.

"The amount of people in the city, that means the amount of money that the government will send to the city. So people who don't register, that means they're not counted, and that means less money for the area."

30-year-old Patrick Jones of Columbus says his household has not filled out his form yet, but he intends to. Jones says he has a friend who is refusing to mail it back.

"He just denied it all the way, so, I thought that was ridiculous, but he did. People be leery about filling it out, it's just their own personal preference," says Jones.

Hector Harris says privacy concerns are often one of the top reasons people do not fill out a census form.

"But, they don't need to worry about the Census information, because it's all kept strictly confidential," says Hector-Harris.

Census data is used to determine the number of congressional seats allocated to states, as well as to distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds.

Sadie Taylor, WOSU News