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As census deadline nears … Adirondack Park response rate still well below state, nation

Time is running out for residents to respond to the 2020 census, and Essex County’s response rate continues to lag behind the rest of the state.

The U.S. Census Bureau plans to end its counting operations for the 2020 census on Sept. 30, one month earlier than expected. As of Sept. 10, the latest date for which county-specific data is available, Essex County had a 41.1% response rate, the third-lowest rate in the state behind Hamilton County, at 18.5%, and Sullivan County, 35.3%.

Essex and Hamilton are the only counties completely within the Adirondack Park boundary. They also have large numbers of second homes and other non-primary dwellings such as vacation rental units and hunting camps; it is not clear how much of a factor these are in the census response rate.

The bureau’s September deadline isn’t set in stone. Judge Lucy H. Koh of the U.S. District Court in Northern California temporarily stopped the bureau from ending its enumeration process a month early, pending a hearing this week on a lawsuit that seeks to stop the bureau from ending its count this month, the New York Times reported last week.

Responding to the census is critically important — particularly in rural counties — for several reasons.

The 2020 census results will be a key part of determining congressional representation, Census Bureau Regional Director Jeff Behler said earlier this year. There are concerns that New York state could lose multiple congressional seats as the state’s population continues to decline. It lost two seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2010 census.

Census data is also used as part of the equation when the federal government disburses $1.5 trillion in funding and aid, including money for road repairs and other infrastructure improvements. The census can impact the number of jobs in an area — census data is a factor in some corporations’ decisions on where to establish new business locations — and can impact local students’ ability to go to college. Census data is a factor in federal Pell and Title 1 education grants. Census data is also used to determine school aid, funding for Head Start federal child care services, national school lunch programs and health care systems.

The Census Bureau is required by the U.S. Constitution to count every person living in the United States.

People can respond to the census in a number of ways.

For those with a traditional mailing address, census forms and instructions on how to respond by mail will be delivered directly and should have already arrived. Those with a post office box should have received notification from a census taker. Residents can respond by phone by calling 844-330-2020 between the hours of 7 a.m. and 2 a.m.

Regardless of whether a person has received notification from the Census Bureau, self-reporting online is also an option. Visit www.census.gov, and click “respond.” Enter your address, and then start the questionnaire, which takes just a few minutes.

The town of Newcomb, in the southwest end of Essex County, continues to have the county’s worst response rate at 22.9%.

In the past few months, however, the response rate in the greater Tri-Lakes region has improved.

The town of Keene — which has had low census response rates in the past — continues to trail behind this year with a 26.4% response rate, though that is up from its 23.8% response rate at the beginning of August, just before census takers were sent out to knock on doors around the region. The town had a response rate of 35.2% for the 2010 census.

Neighboring Wilmington’s response rate has risen from 36.1% at the beginning of August to 38.9% as of Thursday, but lags behind its 2010 response rate of 54.1%.

The town of North Elba — which includes the village of Lake Placid, the hamlet of Ray Brook and part of the village of Saranac Lake — has a response rate of 43.1%, a slight improvement from its 40.8% response rate at the beginning of August, but far behind its 2010 response rate of 51.3%.

The town of Harrietstown has a 50.2% response rate, up from 47.6% in August. The town of St. Armand has a response rate of 50.5%, up from 46.2%. The town of Tupper Lake has the best response rate in this region at 54.5%, up from 51.4% in August. The town of Santa Clara, at 16.7%, and the town of Long Lake, 16%, have the worst response rates in this region.

All of those rates are lower than the state average, but New York as a whole continues to lag behind other states in census response with its 62.3% overall response rate. The national response rate as of Saturday was 65.7%.

Last week, the Federal District Court in Manhattan shot down an order by President Donald Trump that sought to exclude unauthorized immigrants from population counts, which will be used next year when determining seats in the House of Representatives, according to the New York Times. The court ruled that President Trump’s order exceeded his authority under federal laws.