NCW — The U.S. Census Bureau’s largest operation of the decade is underway with in-person, postal and web-based outreach as the organization attempts to count every person in the nation.

The results will be used to determine federal funding allocation and the drawing of congressional districts.

In North Central Washington, the outreach will begin with mailers to households in March, said Census Bureau spokesman Toby Nelson.

“Washington households will receive an invitation in the mail to respond to the census,” he said. “... Households that do not respond to that initial mailer will get a second mailer. Ultimately, they’ll get five reminders in the mail.”

Then in May the bureau’s self-response operation ends and the non-response follow-up operation begins, Nelson said.

“That’s when we have enumerators go knock on doors and do follow-ups with people we haven’t heard from and take down their data that way,” he said. “That will continue through the end of summer.”

Census-takers will attempt to visit any household that hasn’t answered, but the bureau pays special attention to “hard-to-count communities,” Nelson said.

Census tracts across the country are assigned a low-response score based on their reporting history, he said.

“How we determine that particular score is based on the response rate in that particular tract in 2010, combined with the response rate of that area with the other surveys we do,” he said. “... A hard-to-count area is essentially an area where we predict less than 70% of the households will respond to that initial mailer.”

There aren’t any census tracts in Chelan and Douglas counties that fall into the official hard-to-count category, according to Census Bureau data.

But the two counties did have lower-than-average response rates in 2010: 71% of Douglas County households responded to the initial mailer and 68% in Chelan County.

The state rate was 76% and the country had a 74% response rate, according to the data.

But Grant and Okanogan counties have several official hard-to-count areas. In 2010, Okanogan was tied with Pend Oreille County as having the lowest response rate in the state: 52%.

“And all of southern Grant County, the area covering Mattawa and Royal City, is definitely a hard-to-count area,” Nelson said.

The other side of the coin is hard-to-count populations, who are present throughout NCW, Nelson said.

“While Chelan and Douglas counties don’t have hard-to-count areas, per se, we do have hard-to-count populations in those two counties,” he said. “Hard-to-count populations area any group of people that are difficult to persuade to respond or who are hard to locate.”

Non-English speakers, people who are distrustful of the federal government, low-income households and young children are all considered hard-to-count populations, Nelson said.

One way the bureau reaches out to those populations is through community partnerships. Locally, they’re working with the city of Wenatchee, North Central Regional Library and Link Transit, Nelson said.

“They’re all helping out with getting the word out to hard-to-count populations, because to varying degrees they all serve hard-to-count populations and are able to connect with them in a way we can’t,” he said. Link Transit, for example, is providing free bus-side advertising.

For the first time, residents can respond to the census through the mail, over the phone and online, Nelson said. The bureau is offering support in 60 languages.

“We’re always trying to be very attentive to the special challenges of reaching those communities,” he said.

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Reilly Kneedler: 661-5213 or

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