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Census follows costly rebate mailing route

Census2010logo Thank you very much Census Bureau for the letter that arrived in our snail mail box last week alerting us that in another week or so, we'll be getting more mail from you.

This next delivery will be a 2010 Census form which, encourages the announcement letter, the hubby and I need to fill out and promptly mail back. OK.

My first thought upon getting the letter was why couldn't the Census have just included a version of it with the actual form? 

My second thought was what the heck did this cost? In fact, I had serious rebate announcement letter flashbacks.

Well, it turns out that the Census didn't spend quite as much as the Treasury did two years ago.

The prebate letters of 2008 ran us around $42 million. The Census Public Information Office says of its overall $340 million publicity campaign budget, only about $5 million of that total was used to print and mail the notification letters.

When you're talking about government spending these days, $5 million isn't that much. Still, when we're looking at ballooning deficits, this latest mailing has to be questioned, even by me, a person who still dearly loves getting old-fashioned paper mail.

And some other independent calculations estimate that the Census mailing figure actually will end up rivaling the tax rebate letters' cost. Those down-and-dirty numbers are  bulk rate postage of 33½ cents times letters to 126 million households = $42.2 million.

Spend now to save later: But, swear Census folk, whatever the final bill, it's money well spent.

They point to research that shows advance notices typically increase response rates by 6 percent. And that, they say, will save a lot more money in the long run.

The more people who, thanks to the notification letter, send in the Census form by mail, the fewer people the Census Bureau will have to send door-to-door to remind them to fill it out.

"We figure we save just by doing the pre-survey letter anywhere from 240 million and 500 million dollars depending on the return rates," Assistant Regional Census Manager Rich Gerdes told CBS affiliate WCCO in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

We shall see.

Counting employment assistance: The notification letter and subsequent census form mailings will at least keep the Postal Service busy. As I said a few paragraphs earlier, I'm a snail mail devotee from way back, so I'm glad about that. Really. No snark or sarcasm intended.

The Census project also has been a blessing for some unemployed professionals. Some people who have lost high-paying jobs have found decent paying new work at the Census Bureau.

Plus, when the door-to-door canvassing starts because, despite the notification letter, some folks didn't complete their forms, there will be even more jobs available. The Census Bureau says it expects to bring at least 700,000 on board through the summer for part-time jobs paying up to $25 an hour.

And don't forget the translators. The hubby and I have been having fun trying to decipher the languages in which the letter's closing sentence -- "Go to 2010census.gov for help completing your 2010 Census form when it arrives." -- was written.

Here in Texas, where two of the six flags that flew over us were from Spain and Mexico, we got the Spanish.

Census2010 letter languages

Click image for a larger version.

And the Cyrillic lettering of the last one makes us think that's Russian even though the only words we know in that language are nyet and vodka

But we haven't yet tried an online translation engine, so the middle three sentences are still a mystery. Any help readers?

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Comments

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Lillie

I did the first pre-survey and then got the same form which asked for the identical information, or so it appeared to me. I misplaced the actual one and wanted to see what I needed to do to get a replacement one so that I would save someone a trip to my home. However, I did find it and completed it on Census Day, but the day after I also received another form. Unfortunately, I still have been unable to reach someone on the phone from the Census office. I guess they are saving money by having the recording play repeatedly and then hang up.

ParisGirl111

I thought the same thing when I got the announcment letter. Why on earth are you going to waste precious trees to let me know that a survey is coming in the mailbox? Isn't the tv and internet hype enough? Big waste of money and resources as far as I am concerned.

Evan

I freaked out when I saw the census ommercial on the Super Bowl this year. All I could think was that, even if we ignored the talent, the commercial cost into the millions for the 60 second spot!

David Mendenhall

Looks like Simplified Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese.

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