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Complete Count Committees

Plans for Census 2000: The Bureau can benefit from partnerships with local and tribal governments by increasing awareness and participation in the census. Governments and organizations participating in the partnership program stand to improve their representation and disbursement of money from the federal government. Furthermore, local governments can assist the Bureau with traditionally undercounted populations by forming Complete Count Committees (CCCs). For Census 2000, the Bureau has increased its emphasis from 1990 on encouraging local governments to form CCCs.

In May 1998, the Bureau’s Regional Directors sent letters to the highest elected officials of local and tribal governments in their regions to invite them to develop CCCs. With this letter, the Bureau sent out a handbook on CCCs. Each Regional Office also developed suggested guidelines for local governments on how to set up a CCC, including how to recruit members and a proposed sub-committee structure.

While CCCs are designed according to Bureau guidelines, they are established, staffed and managed by local and tribal governments. This was not always clear during the dress rehearsals.

Local and tribal governments should continue to take the lead in creating Complete Count Committees. However, clear expectations should be established between the Complete Count Committee and the Bureau regarding funding and responsibilities.  

The Bureau can provide in-kind contributions, assistance with forming a committee and some administrative support, but the Bureau cannot provide money to a local government for the CCCs activities.

CCCs are created primarily to raise local awareness of the census. Often, CCCs have  representatives of community based organizations that have good relationships with traditionally undercounted populations. Ideally, these representatives can act not only to increase awareness about the upcoming census but can help the Bureau identify where the Bureau needs to increase efforts.

For example, community based organizations can help identify pockets of non-English speaking residents or encourage those who might otherwise be wary of government officials to open their doors to a Bureau employee.

Each party – the Bureau and the CCC – adds value to the partnership. However, this effort cannot meet its goal of improving the census in local areas, with local input, unless each party clearly understands the other’s role. The Board recommends that all expectations, financial or otherwise, between the CCC and the Bureau be clearly established from the beginning of the relationship.

We recommend that all local and tribal governments form or join Complete Count Committees. When possible, local governments should dedicate staff to their CCCs to ensure the CCCs complete the work they set out to do. If a town feels it is too small to conduct its own CCC, it should find out if the county or state is forming a CCC, and join the effort.

We also recommend Members of Congress contact local governments in their districts to encourage them to form Complete Count Committees. With exactly one year left to Census Day, the time to form a CCC is now. Any local government that has not yet formed or joined a Complete Count Committee should contact the Bureau for more information and suggestions on how to create such a committee.

Once an official agrees to develop a CCC, he or she is asked to invite representatives from the community. Committees may include, but are not limited to, representatives from business, media, civic, religious and educational institutions and organizations to promote the census. These representatives are appointed as volunteers to the CCC in order to raise awareness of the census in their community and to encourage every member of their community to fill out a census form.

As of this report, over 4,000 governments across the nation have established CCCs and the Bureau receives confirmation of new CCCs daily.30 These CCCs cover most of the country due to smaller governments working with larger governments. For example, Maple City of 500 people with a part-time Mayor may not have the resources to develop their own CCC, but Maple City will participate in Maple County’s CCC. Cities, counties and states continue to set up their own CCCs as Census Day nears.

While the Board has not seen a detailed Complete Count Committee listing for the entire nation, we have seen the listing for the Seattle Region. According to the Seattle Regional Office, most of the local governments not forming CCCs are towns with populations of less than 10,000 people. All six states in the Seattle Region formed or are forming state-wide Complete Count Committees. Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon and Washington have CCCs up and running, while California is in the process of forming their state-wide CCC.

The Board agrees that federal funds should be made available for cities and towns to conduct CCCs.

During the dress rehearsals, CCCs were hampered by a lack of resources and funding. For instance, in South Carolina, the CCCs were asked to raise money in order to promote the census dress rehearsal. Since most of the members of the CCCs represented charitable organizations (themselves dependent on a limited pool of contributors for funding), this request was not well-received, and strained the relationship between the Bureau and the CCCs.

The CCCs were obliged to fund their activities through local means, usually the local government. The City of Sacramento dedicated members of their staff to assist with CCC needs. Local funding even extended to the census itself when the Menominee Indian Reservation allowed the Local Census Office (LCO) to use the Tribe’s copier.

Some cities can afford to create a line item expense in the city budget for CCCs but some cities cannot afford any funds or can only afford very limited funds to be dedicated to this endeavor.

Dress Rehearsal Experience: The Bureau encouraged each of the dress rehearsal sites to establish Complete Count Committees. In the dress rehearsals, the CCCs were composed of representatives of local government and various community-based organizations. The CCCs were established to raise community awareness about and participation in the census, particularly in populations that are historically undercounted. Examples of hard-to-enumerate (HTE) populations include minority communities distrustful of the government and people living in this country with limited English proficiency.  

Local government officials appointed representatives to the CCC based on the recommendations sent from the Bureau. Representatives from organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, homeless organizations, churches, and social service organizations were invited to participate in CCCs, along with local government representatives and business representatives. The strategy was to include everyone with a stake in an accurate count – at least one person representing each HTE component in that local area along with representatives of the local government and business community.

Members of the Complete Count Committees believed that they would be able to provide suggestions to the Bureau to localize the promotion and execution of the census. CCC suggestions included: site locations to distribute Be Counted forms, site locations for Questionnaire Assistance Centers, how to recruit temporary employees in HTC neighborhoods, and how to assist in promotion and outreach. Local officials expressed frustration, however, that many of their recommendations received no response from the Bureau.

The Bureau needs to define a mechanism whereby each CCC recommendation is heard, reviewed, and receives a timely response.

Complete Count Committees should be encouraged to make recommendations to customize local advertising, identify and count HTE neighborhoods, hire enumerators, or make other localized efforts to improve the census. Given the number of CCCs nationally, not all of these recommendations can or will be implemented by the Bureau. However, CCC members have a right to notification, and explanation, when the Bureau does or does not implement a recommendation. The Board found that insufficient communication and follow-up during the dress rehearsals resulted in a high degree of frustration on the part of local partners.

Some of the CCC members gave suggestions to localize the media campaign that CCC members felt were never included during the dress rehearsals. CCC members suggested that more information on how to obtain assistance to fill out the questionnaires be clearly advertised. Furthermore, the CCCs provided numerous suggestions regarding where to locate signs, suggestions for coordination, and targeted media, which were overlooked. The inability to provide input and coordination to the media campaign occurred irrespective of the receptiveness of the partnership specialist.31

CCC members were also supposed to be instrumental in identifying potential enumerator candidates from HTC neighborhoods. While some CCC members felt their efforts to recruit candidates were successful because their recruits were hired, some CCC members felt their qualified referrals were unjustifiably turned away.32

The Bureau can alleviate this public relations problem, and take greater advantage of local resources during Census 2000, by improving communication with local partners through clearly defined procedures.

The effectiveness of the relationship of the Partnership Specialist to Complete Count Committees depends upon an evenly-spread workload.

The communication liaison between the CCC and the Bureau is the Bureau’s local Partnership Specialist. The importance of the number of CCCs working with a Partnership Specialist is illustrated by the difference between what happened in South Carolina and what happened in Sacramento and Menominee. Sacramento and Menominee were single jurisdictions served by one CCC and one partnership specialist. The South Carolina site, which was composed of 11 counties and over fifty municipalities, was also initially served by only one partnership specialist and a part-time assistant.

When the Sacramento and Menominee CCCs had numerous suggestions for improvement regarding the census process in their respective jurisdictions, both were able to easily contact their respective partnership specialists. But despite this access, they were still unable to solve persistent problems. In South Carolina, the refrain from the CCCs was that they had little contact with the partnership specialist assigned to their area. The ability of the partnership specialist to effectively relay information to the CCCs was restricted by the geographic area for which the partnership specialist was responsible.

The CCC offers local and tribal governments and community based organizations the opportunity to have input into the effort to count their local area and constituent groups while the Bureau can gain entry into hard-to-enumerate (HTE) communities. This is an excellent concept and can be effective to reach traditionally undercounted populations, if properly executed.