Herbert makes plea for Utahns to fill out census after self-return rate stalls

A sign reminding people to fill out their 2020 census form outside a Salt Lake City apartment complex on Saturday, Aug. 15, 2020.

(Carter Williams, KSL.com)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert made a pitch Thursday for Utahns to fill out their 2020 census forms, especially as the deadline for the federal government to stop counting citizens looms.

His call for Utahns to fill out the form comes as recent data shows a quarter of Utah’s households still haven’t filled out the 2020 form, which is used to collect populations every decade. The information helps the federal government apportion House of Representative seats and dictate where federal money goes.

“An accurate account is important for a variety of reasons — to know who is in our borders, and the government’s role is to, in fact, provide opportunities for our constituents and the state of Utah,” Herbert said, during his monthly news conference.

The 30-minute televised conference covered a broad range of topics, including Utah’s COVID-19 response and the census. He said officials know there are about 3.2 to 3.3 million people residing in Utah now, which is another significant jump from 2.8 million reported after the last census was conducted in 2010.

What isn’t known is the demographics found within the population, which are uncovered through the census. They help figure out the money Utah receives from federal spending, Herbert continued.

“Really, 94% of all the money we receive from the federal government, interestingly enough, generates from Utah citizens and their own pocketbooks,” he said. “It comes back to us in the form of helping us with education funding, transportation, health and human services, business development, political representation, public safety. There’s a long laundry list of issues that we get federal funds for.”

About 68.4% of Utah households have self-responded since the census was sent out earlier this year, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau statistics released Thursday. That’s slightly above the national self-response rate of 64.1% and close to the state's 68.6% rate in 2010.

But the rate of self-response in the Beehive State has remained stagnant over the summer. Data shows that the response rate has increased by just 5.4 percentage points since May 14. The majority of responses to date came between mid-March and mid-April.

Census workers began follow-ups on households that haven’t responded last week; that’s helped bump up that number a bit. According to the bureau, nearly 75% of the state households have responded when adding in nonresponse follow-ups, but that also leaves 25% left with six weeks remaining for Utahns to respond to the census.

“There’s no need to wait for a census taker to visit your home,” Coralys Ruiz, media specialist for the Census Bureau, told KSL NewsRadio last week. “And it’s so easy and convenient just to do it on your own while practicing social distancing.”

The agency announced earlier this month that the deadline for counting would be Sept. 30, which is a month sooner than the previously announced Oct. 31 deadline.

Herbert called on some areas of the state, which have struggled with responding to the 2020 census form. A report issued by the bureau, from data compiled on Aug. 4, found that many of the state’s rural areas were the most behind responding to the form.

“We have a lower-than-expected response from some counties,” the governor said. “I want to just pass this out to folks out there: Emery, Wayne, San Juan, Piute, Beaver and Garfield (counties) have a lower-than-usual response rate right now. We’d hope that they would take this as a charge to get out there and fill out the census.”

Census bureau statistics show Rich County had the lowest response rate at 12.5%; it was followed by Daggett (20.8%), Garfield (23%), Piute (27.3%) and Duchesne (29.3%) counties. In all, 11 of 29 counties reported fewer than 50% response rates. Morgan and Davis counties were tied for best response rates — 77.8% — at that time. Cache (74.4%), Utah (72.5%) and Box Elder (71%) rounded out the top five at that point.

While efforts are underway on the ground to collect the final quarter of households in the state, Utahns can still fill out the census online at my2020census.gov or by phone at 1-844-330-2020. The website has forms available in a dozen different languages, and the phone option can be conducted in either English or Spanish.

“It only takes a few minutes,” Herbert said, “so let’s get ‘er done.”

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.


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