People in Massachusetts who have not yet responded to the 2020 U.S. Census could soon get a knock on their door.
A third of Massachusetts households have not responded to the census, so they will get a visit from a census-taker as the final push begins to count all of the state’s 6.8 million residents.
" This is crunch time," said Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, the state’s top census official, who visited Springfield Thursday for the kickoff of the door-to-door headcount and the start of the final 10 weeks of the 2020 U.S. Census.
He said western Massachusetts is one region in danger of losing critical federal funds and electoral representation if there is an undercount in the census.
"I am committed to making sure western Massachusetts is not shortchanged, and the history here is that you have been," said Galvin.
Since April 1st, people have had the option to respond to the census online, by mail, or by phone.
As of Thursday, the statewide response rate for the census was 64.7 percent. Springfield’s rate was 56.5 percent. In Agawam and Northampton, 75 percent of the households have been counted. Galvin said all are below the response rates at this time during the census in 2010.
"The state is about 5 points behind overall and we have to make that up," said Galvin.
The pandemic ripped apart carefully made plans for getting people to fill out the census questionnaire. Libraries and community centers where outreach was going to take place closed. The cancellation of large events is another lost chance to engage people about the census. The door-to-door count typically starts in April.
Census workers with handheld computers were outside the Rebecca Johnson Elementary School in Springfield Thursday as people came to pick up free meals.
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno said it is social programs like the summer meals that will be at risk if the city’s population count comes in below 150,000.
" It is key to federal funding espectially CDBG ( Community Development Block Grant) funding, which is a lifeline to urban mayors like myself," said Sarno.
Two members of Springfield’s state legislative delegation, Rep. Bud Williams and Rep. Carlos Gonzalez, joined Galvin and Sarno at Thursday’s event to urge people to answer the door when the census-taker knocks.
Gonzalez urged people to “do what is right and be counted.”
"It doesn't matter your social status or your documented or undocumented status. You count. This is when we all count, " said Gonzalez.
The census workers going door-to-door all carry official U.S. Census Bureau identification. They will wear face masks and will not enter any homes. If there is a language barrier, the census worker will leave a phone number. The census bureau has people who speak 13 languages.
The door-to-door counting is taking place in Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, Hampden, Worcester, Norfolk and Middlesex Counties. It will begin in other areas of Massachusetts by mid-August.
NPR reported Friday that the Trump administration is ending the Census Bureau’s door-to-door work on September 30th – a month sooner than scheduled.
Galvin, in a statement, condemned the plan to stop the census count early, calling it “another attempt by the Trump administration to sabotage the census.”