GLEN ROCK, NJ – Glen Rock has the best response rate in New Jersey when it comes to filling out the 2020 Census form.
Since mid-March, when the once-a-decade count kicked off, 87.2% of residents have submitted their Census forms so far, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
Glen Rock is also tied with East Grand Rapids, Michigan, Granville Township, Ohio and Perry Township, Ohio for the 63rd highest completion rate in the nation out of 34,621 countable communities.
Councilwoman Teresa Gilbreath, who is part of Glen Rock’s Complete Count Committee, believes the town’s showing is due to a combination of the community’s “strong civic sense” and continued outreach efforts.
This year also marks the first time the Census has been made available online, which accounts for 82.2% of Glen Rock’s response rate.
In March, just as the coronavirus outbreak was ramping up in North Jersey, households began receiving invitations to complete the Census by mail, over the phone or virtually. In-person activities, like visits by enumerators, were postponed until June 1 by the U.S. Census Bureau and the deadline for completion was extended until Oct. 31.
“Some people were wondering ‘Why are we talking about the Census? We’re in the middle of a pandemic,’” Gilbreath said.
“COVID is with us now and it’s incredibly serious, but Census data stays with us for ten years,” she said. “The impact is a decade, and we have to really think about that.”
Responses to Census questions on background and residence are used to determine population, how citizens are represented in Congress, how legislative districts are drawn and where more than $45 billion in federal funding to New Jersey will go. The federal aid is distributed for items like schools, roads, healthcare, housing and emergency services.
During the last Census, Glen Rock’s response rate was 83.4%.
Gilbreath said, “We’re optimistic we can do better than 2010.” She added that they’d like to see “every community have equally high numbers, too.”
Thanks to a $2,500 grant from the county, Glen Rock was able to produce several materials to promote the Census, including lawn signs, mailers and fliers. Originally, Gilbreath said they planned to set up kiosks with laptops around town for people to complete their Census forms, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to shift gears.
The town’s Complete Count Committee has also been using social media to reach out and provided weekly updates in the borough newsletter. They'll continue their outreach efforts through the fall, she said.
Prior to the coronavirus crisis, Gilbreath spoke to five history classes at Glen Rock High School about the importance of the Census. Future talks could include its impacts on funding, taxes and “how it relates to COVID,” she said.
New Jersey is ahead of the rest of the country, with completed responses from 63.4% of households compared with 61.6% nationally. About 53.8% of Garden State residents responded to the Census online.
Out of the 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, New Jersey ranks 21st for its response rate.
Gov. Phil Murphy has said New Jersey is doing good – but its rate could be better, especially since federal funding to help the state recover from the coronavirus pandemic is sorely needed. On an almost weekly basis, Murphy has reminded New Jersey’s 9 million residents to fill out their forms.
Within New Jersey, Hunterdon, Morris and Burlington are among the counties with the highest response rates as of now, while Atlantic, Hudson and Cape May fall below average.
In 2010, 67.6% of New Jersey responded to the Census, which fell below the national rate of 74%. As a result, the state lost a seat in the House of Representatives.
“We know for a fact that we were undercounted in 2010. And because we were, we lost out on literally tens of billions of dollars in federal aid and grants,” Murphy said during a May 28 media briefing. “As we begin our restart and recovery, that’s a hole we have to work even harder to pull ourselves out of.”
Residents can respond to the 2020 Census over the phone, by mail or through an online questionnaire at http://www.2020census.gov.