San Mateo County plans to send postcards to post office boxes next week to address questions about how rural Coastside residents will receive information for the 2020 census.
At last month’s Midcoast Community Council meeting, some raised concerns and questions about how those who live on the unincorporated Coastside will get census materials because they rely on P.O. boxes for mail. The U.S. Census Bureau does not
deliver census forms to such boxes.
According to San Mateo County Office of Community Affairs Community Outreach Specialist Melissa Vergara, the county recognizes the issue and is taking action to address it. Vergara said the county plans to send postcards out to residents who only get mail via P.O. boxes to inform them that they will receive census materials, just not through their boxes.
“At the county we know this will be a big challenge, seeing as how a lot of our coastal or more rural residences receive mail via P.O. boxes,” Vergara wrote in a statement to the Review. “This is why we took the initiative and will be mailing out approximately 30,000 postcards to P.O. boxes in San Mateo County.”
Vergara said the county will begin sending out the postcards, with information written in both Spanish and
English, this week. The postcard explains the U.S. Census Bureau’s protocol for rural areas: to hand deliver the invitation packet for the census or mail it directly to physical addresses. Many homes in Montara, Moss Beach and El Granada will require the hand-delivered invitation because the post office does not deliver mail to those physical addresses.
The postcard also clarifies that no census forms will be placed in P.O. boxes and urges residents to contact the Census Bureau by calling (844) 330-2020 or visit my2020census.gov if they have still not received any census information by April 1.
Sonny Lê, U.S. Census partnership specialist for the San Francisco Bay Area, confirmed that census workers will begin dropping off invitation packets — which include the census invitation, a paper copy of the census and instructions in 13 languages on how to take the census over the phone or online — at rural addresses starting March 16.
The invitation will encourage residents to take the census online and will include a code that is personalized to their address. Vergara said the code works to identify addresses easily but is not required to take the census.
According to online materials from the Census Bureau, rural addresses like those on the Coastside that only receive mail via P.O. box are part of a group of 5 percent of households nationwide, including those recently affected by natural disasters, that will require a census taker to physically drop off the census invitation.
Lê said census workers canvassed rural areas, including those across San Mateo County, last summer to verify and
geocode every rural address so as to not miss a single household.
“We know exactly where these residences are,” Lê said.
Lê — who worked the past two census counts in this area — said the 2020 census will be the most accessible yet to rural residents.
Even if residents miss initial invitations, each household should continue to get multiple reminders and census forms throughout the spring and summer. If a resident still has not taken the census by the end of April, an enumerator will come in person to their home in May, and residents will still have the chance to respond by any means until July 31.
“It doesn’t matter which initial invitation you get or how you get it — we will follow up in person with all households that don’t respond,” a census fact sheet states.