Census commission discussing the options to increase response rate

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Joe DiBartolomeo, one of Gov. Jim Justice’s designees to his Complete Count Commission, says the process of the U.S. Census is starting to slow down but that does not mean to stop working on getting individuals registered.

The commission held its weekly meeting on Monday via phone as West Virginia remains 49th in the United States for the Census response at 48.2 percent, up around one percent in three weeks.

DiBartolomeo said the time is starting to become up to individuals and leaders of organizations on the commission to “keep grinding” to get the word out to citizens to participate.

“I think a lot of this is individual now. Andy (Malinoski) has the major muscle movements on this and I think we have to go through our individual organizations and see what we can come up with,” he said.

Malinoski, press secretary for the state Department of Commerce, has been one of the leading voices from state office on the commission. He spoke on advertising and attempting to earn “trust” of the public when workers are back out in the public following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jill Upson, the executive director of Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs and leading the minority efforts on the commission, was on the call and said the idea to have citizens fill out the Census at testing sites for COVID-19 is still an option.

Jill Upson

Hundreds of state residents have been tested for free over the past couple of weekends at sites ran by the Governor’s Office, DHHR, the Herbert Henderson Office of Minority Affairs, and the WV National Guard.

The testing is part of Gov. Justice’s initiative to increase testing opportunities for minorities and other vulnerable population. Upson said the same population can fill out the Census. She said she would remain in touch with Census officials and local health departments to see what can be worked out.

“If you look at Harrison County, they had 516 cars in one day on Friday. It’s definitely a captive audience and an opportunity we wouldn’t want to miss,” she said.

Public testing on June 12 and 13 include Greenbrier, Hancock, Logan, and Wood counties. As of Monday, Logan is 49th out of the 55 West Virginia counties in response rate at 17.6%, Greenbrier at 32nd (40.7%), while Wood (67.2%) and Hancock (64.6%) remain 1st and 4th respectively.

McDowell County is last in the state in response rate at 5.5%.

The next phone meeting for the commission is scheduled for June 15.

The deadline for all responses for the Census has been pushed to Oct. 31 due to the virus.

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