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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Some census forms a no-show

 •  Beware of census scam artists


By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

The U.S. Census Bureau loves people like Karen Masunaga.

The 52-year-old retired nurse understands the importance of the decennial count and is more than willing to participate by mailing back a census questionnaire.

But this year, Masunaga's home is one of the nearly 40 percent of Hawai'i residences still waiting to be counted.

Unlike people who are procrastinating or ignoring the process, Masunaga is among those still waiting to receive a census form.

"I've been checking my mail every day because I know how important it is," Masunaga said. "And I would rather fill out a form and return it than have someone come to my house."

Friday is the last day for people to mail back their 2010 census questionnaire and avoid a follow-up visit from a census enumerator.

Next week, the Census Bureau will begin generating lists of residences that have not responded by mail. Local census offices will use this list to plan follow-up visits, which begin next month.

While people can still return a form by mail after Friday, there is no guarantee that their form will be received in time for their address to be taken off the list.

That has many civic-minded Hawai'i residents who have not yet received a census form feeling a bit anxious and irritated.

Ronnie Cantor of Honolulu said that, as of Monday, she and her fellow residents at the 'Iolani Court Plaza condominium still hadn't received their census forms despite numerous calls to the local census office.

Cantor leaves for a business trip to the Mainland this week. When she returns, she can expect a census enumerator to knock at her door.

"This really disturbs me because I believe in the necessity and value of the census and rankle at the idea that the extra cost incurred doing live canvassing could have been avoided," Cantor wrote in an e-mail to the Advertiser. "What a waste!"

Winnie Wilson, manager of the Honolulu Census Office, said there are various reasons why people may not have received a form.

The Census Bureau does not mail census questionnaires to post office boxes. (However, in some cases census staff have tried to hand-deliver forms to homes without mailboxes.)

Residents in buildings that are a mix of commercial and residential units may also not have received forms because their building may not be included on census lists. If so, residents should call their local census office, Wilson said.

"We're doing everything we can to make sure that everyone gets a questionnaire," said Wilson, who has personally hand-delivered forms to residences on her way home from work.

Initial mailouts began last month, with a second round for traditionally hard-to-count areas following last week.

With just three days left before the cutoff, residents who have not received a form are encouraged to visit a Be Counted/Questionnaire Assistance Center location for a replacement. Centers can be located via the "Take 10 Map" section of the official census Web site, 2010.census.gov/2010census /take10map (click on "Help Centers").

Residents may also call the Honolulu Census Office (535-0920) or Wai'anae Census Office (697-7200) for assistance in getting a form.

Ethel Keyes, 55, of the Kāhala Kua neighborhood, spent the better part of a month trying to get a census form.

She said she received the advance letter informing her to look for her questionnaire in the mail and a follow-up postcard reminding her to mail back her form "everything but the questionnaire," she said.

Keyes said she called the national help line but found it no help at all.

Finally, she called the Honolulu Census Office and was directed to the Goodwill store in Kaimukī, where she was finally able to get a replacement Be Counted questionnaire.

She promptly completed the 10-question form and mailed it back.

"I always do it," Keyes said. "Especially now, I want to save my own taxpayer dollars. If you don't send it in, they have to find you, and I don't want them to keep coming back if I'm not home. Especially now, we should be thinking of these things."