The United States Census Bureau sent out 120 million letters to tell us that the Census will arrive next week. The I-Team's Leisa Zigman checked into the cost of mailing those letters and asks why the government feels the expense was necessary.
Government representatives explained in order to reach more than a hundred million households, the cost of postage and printing for the preliminary letters saves money because it results in a greater return of the questionnaires. That means hourly Census workers don't have to visit as many homes.
Shelia Jones wasn't impressed with that answer.
"I was disappointed and I was wondering why they were sending out this mailing when it wasn't the actual census form?" she said.
At Miso Restaurant in Clayton, Brad Beracha asked, "$85 million for this piece of paper? That is absurd. Why do we need notification the census is coming?"
A Census spokesperson Sydnee Chattin-Reynolds explained, "We have extensive research that shows additional mailings alerting households to the arrival of the census form increase response rates by about six to 12 percentage points. And, every one percent increase saves the taxpayers about $85,000,000 in expensive door-to-door follow up."
"It costs 42 cents to mail back a form. If you compare that to the cost of $57 for someone to go door-to-door, 42 cents versus $57 is a huge savings."
Experts at Conservatree, a nonprofit recycling organization, analyzed the paper reams and calculated the number of trees used to reach 120,000,000 people. Conservatree experts estimate it took 23,906 trees to produce this advance mailing.
While the advance letter costs $85,000,000 no one at the bureau could answer how much it will cost to produce and mail out the actual census. They promised to get back to us.
The entire project is budgeted at $6.7 billion.