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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, June 09, 2019 1:00 am

City, state working to maximize results

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

Count Me INdy! has been urging Indianapolis residents to participate in the 2020 census. Other Indiana cities have been slower to start similar campaigns.

Fort Wayne government spokesman John Perlich said planning is under way to establish a Complete Count Committee of volunteers this summer in the Summit City.

“The charge to that group will be to organize a messaging campaign that expresses the direct value to our community that comes from robust census participation by residents,” Perlich said last week in an email. “Locally organized Complete Count Committees have historically been effective ways to generate relatively high participation in the decennial census.”

Mayor Tom Henry appointed a 20-member Complete Count Committee in July 2009 for the 2010 census, which pegged Fort Wayne's population at 253,691. The U.S. Census Bureau said this May that the city's estimated population had grown to 267,633 in 2018.

The Census Bureau says Complete Count Committees serve as state and local “census ambassador” groups that “increase awareness and motivate residents to respond” to decennial census surveys.

Carol Rogers, Gov. Eric Holcomb's liaison to the 2020 census, said many

Hoosier communities are waiting until summer to set up Complete Count Committees. Census survey information will be sent to households next March and April; people can answer survey questions online or with paper forms.

Some organizationshave gotten a head start.Becky Honeywell of the Indiana Philanthropy Alliance said her group has been encouraging census participation to member foundations for the past two years through a grant from the Joyce Foundation, which supports racial equity and economic mobility in the Great Lakes region.

Callie Kennington, an Indianapolis government planner, is program manager for the Count Me INdy! campaign. She said its Complete Count Committee has met monthly since forming in February and plans to hire a “street team.”

Those contractors will be attending public events and “promoting the census, answering questions, educating the public that it's coming up and getting them comfortable with the kinds of questions that are asked,” Kennington said in a telephone interview.

“We really want to focus on our hard-to-count populations and communities,” she said.

Count Me INdy! has identified census participation barriers, solutions and resources. Among the challenges: lack of trust; language and literacy barriers; reluctance to share personal information; fear of listing renters whose names aren't on a lease; lack of internet access; disinterest; and a failure to understand the importance of the census.

The committee “had a lot of great ideas on ways to do outreach in the community and overcome challenges,” Kennington said. 

To overcome language barriers, for example, Count Me INdy! is translating materials into Spanish, French and Burmese; its website is offered in nine languages.

Most Hoosiers were willing to take the survey in 2010, as Indiana and Iowa tied for third nationally for census participation. Their 79% response rate was behind Wisconsin's 82% and Minnesota's 81%. The nationwide rate was 74%.

bfrancisco@jg.net