Fewer than half of Cattaraugus County households have responded to the U.S. Census.
The county’s 49.7% response rate as of Monday compares to New York state’s rate of 56.9% and the nation’s rate of 61.6%.
The City of Olean’s response rate is 56.7%, slightly below the state’s rate, while the City of Salamanca’s rate is 60.5%, close to the national response rate.
The Town of Allegany had the highest response rate in the county with 66.4%. The lowest response came from the Town of Ellicottville with a 16.5% rate.
Crystal Abers, director of the Cattaraugus County Department of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism, said with the coronavirus pandemic and the shutdown for the past 3½ months, residents haven’t been focusing on the census.
Because of the shutdown, Census workers haven’t been going door to door of families who didn’t respond to the mail from the Census.
“People have the option to call, mail or complete an online questionnaire for the census,” Abers said. She thinks more publicity and going door to door will bring up the county’s response rate.
There’s a lot of federal money at stake. Federal grants for the next decade will be based on population. An incomplete count will result in lower federal funding for a host of programs, including rural health.
Census workers have just started going out again, Abers said. “I think you are going to see that those numbers will improve.”
Dr. Jason T. Eastman, senior partnership specialist with the Field Division of the U.S. Census in Buffalo, oversees the count in Cattaraugus County.
“In addition to our social media campaigns we are resuming field operations, which means Census takers and I can attend outdoor events while wearing a mask and maintaining 6 feet of social distance from others,” Eastman said.
“We hope these field efforts work towards our ultimate goal of promoting self-response now and thereby help us avoid knocking on doors later this summer and into the fall,” he added.
Cattaraugus County municipalities and their Census response rate from most to least as of Monday follow:
Little Valley, 57
New Albion, 56.8
Red House, 50
East Otto, 45.1
Great Valley, 39.8
South Valley, 24.3