April 6, 2010 | Atlantic Journal | Original Article

Missed by the census? More forms on the way

For anyone wondering why they didn't get a census form -- one might be on the way,  leaders with the U.S. Census Bureau and the state of Georgia say.

Another round of thousands of forms was put in the mail over the past week -- some to homes that never received the decennial survey in the first place and others for communities that traditionally have had low response rates.

And in a first, the U.S. Census Bureau plans to mail surveys to people with post office boxes if they still haven't received or sought a form after Monday , said Pam Page-Bellis, a spokeswoman for the regional office of the bureau. Americans may also call 866-872-6868 to request a form if they have not received it by Monday.

"We are asking that everyone wait until after April 12 before starting to worry about not receiving a form," she said. "We agreed with the (U.S.) Postal Service to use certain methods to make it as easy on them as we could. This was a massive mailing of 121 million forms."

Since the April 1 deadline to turn in the 10-question form, thousands of Georgians have complained that they still had not received the survey.

The census, which is taken every 10 years, is used to determine everything from representation in the U.S. Congress to drawing district lines at the state level to allocating $400 billion in federal aid annually for the next decade.

Complaints about missing forms have come all over the state, said Saralyn Stafford, a Georgia Department of Community Affairs official coordinating census outreach. Stafford said she was told that many who did not have a form last week had received them.

Officials with the tiny DeKalb County city of Pine Lake said last week that none of the community's residents had received a form. Those residents receive mail at post office boxes because there is no residential mail delivery. The census bureau recently decided to send forms to post office boxes after April 12.

Georgia continues to lag behind the nation in returning the survey forms. As of Monday, 57 percent of Georgians had turned in their forms, according to an online accounting by the census bureau. The national rate was 60 percent.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed appealed to residents to return their forms Tuesday morning on the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner radio show. Hundreds of people, some with the forms, turned out for the event that was broadcast live from the parking lot of the Kroger grocery store on Metropolitan Parkway.

Deborah McClary Moran of the Atlanta Urban League said personalities like the mayor and Joyner help to motivate residents who, for various reasons, haven't made the census a priority.

Some residents may be putting the census on "the back burner because this is tax month," she said. "Or there are still some people who may feel uncomfortable with the census, or are just leery."

This Saturday, many communities will participate in March to the Mailbox, a census bureau campaign of volunteers holding rallies and going door-to-door to encourage people to fill out the forms.