Midstate lags nation in census returns

Today marks Census Day, the official day to stand up and be counted. But statistics released Wednesday suggest Middle Georgia’s coming up a bit short.

Locally, only Centerville and Perry residents met the national average, 50 percent, for mailing the forms back to the federal government. That figure dropped to as low as 30 percent in Jeffersonville, which can make a big difference in how much it costs to complete the constitutionally mandated count.

Sarah Ray, manager of the Macon census office, said officials will continue an education campaign to get the rest of the forms mailed in. Ray hopes at least 60 percent of area households turn them in before census workers show up at their homes.

But each household that doesn’t return the form is expensive for the government. While it costs the U.S. Census Bureau 42 cents to mail a form, it takes an average of $57 to send workers to each doorstep to help get the forms filled out.

“It’s always more costly if we have to come out there,” Ray said.

The Macon office has hired 1,062 workers and expects perhaps 700 of them ultimately will hit the streets in early May to cover 14 counties. All that will depend on how many forms are sent back in.

In Middle Georgia, Houston, Laurens, Monroe and Peach counties were meeting or exceeding the state’s average return rate of 45 percent, but no counties were matching the national average of 50 percent.

Return rates were under 40 percent in Baldwin, Crawford and Twiggs counties. Bibb and Jones county residents had return-rate figures just above 40 percent.

The U.S. Census Bureau said it expects 48 million households will not mail the form back, so 650,000 workers could have to go door-to-door.

English speakers can get help filling out the form by calling (866) 872-6868. Spanish speakers can call (866) 928-2010.

The Macon office expects to take job applications for census workers for about two more weeks. For information on a census job, call (866) 861-2010.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.