Make yourself count: Officials make pitch to public to fill out census forms

Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, left, and Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz lead a U.S. Census last Tuesday at the Bristol Public Library. (Photo by Janelle Morelli)

By TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz visited the Bristol Public Library on Tuesday, April 23, as part of her 2020 U.S. Census kickoff tour.

“This is the first time in the history of our census, since 1790, that we will actually be able to fill out census forms online next year,” said Bysiewicz. “We’re here at the library because we have a digital divide in our state – not everybody has access to a computer or the internet in their homes, and that’s why our libraries are our trusted partners.”

Census supervisory partnership specialist in Connecticut and Rhode Island, Mark Plumley, explained that a census is conducted once every 10 years in order to count every person in the country. That statistical data, which is confidentially bound under Title XIII, is then used to determine things such as congressional district alignment, local representation district alignment, school district alignment, and federal funding.

“$675 billion a year gets distributed nationwide,” said Plumley. “If we don’t get a correct census count then the federal dollars may not be in the exact, appropriate place.”

Bysiewicz, who chairs the state’s Complete Count Committee, said that approximately $11 billion is allocated to Connecticut annually, which is about $2,900 per person in the state.

These funds are used for programs such as the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Community Development Block Grants, Head Start school lunch program, and highway and construction projects, amongst others.

At the state level, the Complete Count Committee is comprised of several groups such as business groups, chambers of commerce, labor organizations, faith-based organizations, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services), Latin organizations, federal health centers, and more, according to Bysiewicz.

Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, mayor of the City of Bristol, explained the city’s complete count process with be spearheaded by the newly formed Diversity Council, chaired by Jeffrey Israel.

In 1900, she explained, Bristol had a total population of 9,643. In 1920, it had jumped to 20,620. Ninety years later, the number had more than doubled, which a total population of 60,477.

“At the turn of the century and into the end of World War I and The Great Depression we saw many immigrants coming to Bristol. They came here for good paying jobs, they came here for the security that that life could promise them fleeing Europe and the economic strife that occurred there,” said Zoppo-Sassu. “Today, we’re seeing even more diversity coming into Bristol – we have a growing Laotian population, we have a growing Hispanic population, we have a wonderful group of Bangladeshi families that call Bristol home now, and many of them are represented on our Diversity Council, which I think is going to, hopefully, take away some of those barriers of people who might be concerned about answering these questions.”

Donna Osuch, president of the United Way of West Central Connecticut, Marlo Greponne, director of planning and programs with the Human Resources Agency of New Britain, Mary Etter, executive director of the Bristol Adult Resource Center, and Larry Covino, administrative supervisor at the Bristol Preparatory Academy, discussed the importance of the census through the lens of their organizations.

All said their organizations frequently use census data, such as the United Way, who uses it to comply their ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) report. Greponne explained that HRA uses the data when building cases, showing statistically why certain resources are imperative to their work.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.