BELOIT — Beloit’s census response rate is lagging behind other Rock County municipalities and the disruption caused by COVID-19 to the city’s Complete Count Committee’s outreach efforts could be partially to blame, according to Beloit City Clerk-Treasurer Lori Stottler.

The U.S. Census Bureau announced on Aug. 26 it the deadline for completing the census is Sept. 30.

A total of 68.7% of Beloit households have completed the census, down slightly from the Wisconsin state average of 71.2%. Beloit’s response rate is second-to-last out of municipalities in Rock County, behind Footville at 68%. Other Rock County community responses are: Milton (82%); Edgerton (80.8%); Janesville (78.7%) and Orfordville (77.1%), according to census response rate data.

“That’s right where we’ve always been,” Stottler said. “COVID-19 really played into that and our committee hasn’t been able to execute the in-person outreach events that we wanted to do as part of our original plan.”

The lack of in-person events has forced the committee to conduct virtually all online outreach, and even played into the Bureau’s decision to renege its Oct. 31 extension that was issued in July.

“I think it’s an incredible disappointment that we had pulled together such a dynamic group that covered every aspect of our community,” Stottler said. “We had so many sectors covered and it was a great collaborative effort.”

But there’s still time to complete the census and Stottler said she’s hopeful the final month will lead to more responses coming in ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline.

“We have every agency in Beloit pushing the census out to help get the word out,” Stottler said. “Obviously COVID-19 changed everything, but it’s a matter of awareness and I think we will improve our numbers.”

Personal information completed on the census is secure and not turned over to government officials. There is no citizenship question on the census and even non-citizens are counted as part of the census. Answers on the census are not shared with law enforcement as protected by law. The census will never ask for Social Security information, monetary donations, political party affiliations or for banking information, according to the census website.

It is important to respond to the census because census data is used in calculating how much a community will receive in federal funds for projects such as road repair and maintenance, schools and other projects. Businesses also use census information when deciding where to locate new outlets.

To complete the census, visit 2020census.gov.