What If You Usually Receive Your Mail at a Post Office Box But Didn’t Get a Census Form?

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

I’ve gotten some emails from residents who usually get their mail at a Post Office (P.O.) box and didn’t receive a form mailing to that box.

We don’t send census forms to P.O. boxes, so it’s actually normal for them not to receive a form in the mail at their P.O. box. The census is all about counting people where they live and sleep, so we must tie each form to a physical location. P.O. boxes are not tied to specific housing units, so we can’t use them to send the forms to specific housing units.

When there is a large number of households in an area getting mail at a Post Office, we use the so-called “Update/Leave” technique. In other words, if we can’t get them a form to their physical address by mail, we’ll deliver one or interview them in person.

When there are isolated cases receiving their mail at a Post Office (while the majority receive their mail at their address), we may not know a housing unit’s physical address is not their mailing address. This is despite our best efforts at cross-referencing our list with the Postal Service’s information we use. In these cases, if we send a form to the physical address, and the Post Office doesn’t recognize it as a mailing address, they will return that form to us as undeliverable. Then we automatically add them to the group of addresses that we will follow-up with beginning in May.

For civic-minded residents like the ones who have brought their situations to our attention, we know waiting for a census taker to arrive is a let down while the majority of the nation is given forms and asked to return them by mail. However, the important part is that these residents will still be counted.

If for some reason, residents feel like they are not being counted, they can call our telephone assistance numbers on April 12 or they can visit a Be Counted site to get a form. In any case, we will visit these households in person starting May 1, 2010, to make absolutely sure they’re counted.

Please submit any questions pertaining to this post to ask.census.gov

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28 Responses to What If You Usually Receive Your Mail at a Post Office Box But Didn’t Get a Census Form?

  1. Peter Cook says:

    Regarding Census2010’s position on not delivering census forms to USPS P.O. Box holders. It costs the goverment millions of dollars to count the USPS P.O. Box holders by sending a census taker out to their street address, so every effort should be made to maximize mail delivery for census forms to households. In order to get a USPS P.O. Box you have to have a street address. The Post Office does not allow you to receive mail at your street address and through a USPS P.O. Box concurrently within the same zip code. The Post Office, for any given zip code, has the capability of ensuring that one and only one census form is directed to a household,either delivered directly or delivered to the households USPS P.O. Box.Perhaps what is needed is a bit more cooperation from the USPS in excerising this money saving capability. I realize that money saving might be an alien concept to the USPS.
    It just seems like an incredible waste of tax payer money to have to spend money to count P.O. Box holders by needlessly sending a census taker out to their residence.
    I tried to order a census form from the phone number provided by the census bureau but was told in a recorded announcement that unless I had the number printed on my census form I could not receive a form…I ask you..why would I be ordering a census form if I already had one and therefore had the number that was on the form. During the last census 2000 the same thing happened.

  2. I Nazar says:

    It is unfortunate that the USPS instructs its employees that they are not allowed to assist Census employees in getting the correct PO Box address for a house that does not receive mail at the physical address and for not trying to coordinate a method to ensure Census data is collected at every physical address.

  3. CLL says:

    Really,am I not paying the US Government for the use of said PO Box ? And I concur with Mr. Cook, previous poster. We had to give a physical address to get a PO Box. However I’m considering putting up a mailbox now. Everytime I need something important delivered, they don’t recognize the PO Box any way so maybe I’ll take my $50/year I’ve been paying the US Government and put it towards a mailbox! Maybe everyone who has a PO Box should go to mailboxes if they can. How much money would the Post Office and the Government lose ? Just curious.

  4. Catherine Swindle says:

    We don’t have a PO box. Nor do our neighbors – NO ONE in our immediate area has rec’d a census form and today our postal worker said they are expecting to deliver more forms next week. How nice that the USPS can now predict the mail.

  5. Harold Bullock says:

    We did not recive our’s.

  6. Zero Joker says:

    I know Smithsburg Post Office If you get mail at a P.O.Box if a letter comes in that dosn`t have a Po Box #.The Post Office will sent the letter back to the sender. That why I hate to get anybody my street address.and I didn`t get my Census form.

  7. Harold,
    If you have not received a replacement questionnaire by April 12th, please contact the call center. 1-866-872-6868, but please note until April 12th, it is automated message.

  8. Peter Cook,
    If you call after April 12th, someone will be able to help you. Also you can pick up a form at one of our be counted sites. http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/

  9. JA says:

    The government would not lose any money. The Postal Service does not get money from the governemnt, they have to support themselves.

  10. WIL says:

    I AGREE WITH ALL THE ABOVE, ESPECIALLY REGARDING MAIL GOING BACK TO THE SENDER WHEN THE STREET ADDRESS IS USED. I CONSTANTLY FEEL THAT POST OFFICE BOX HOLDERS ARE CONSIDERED SECOND CLASS CITIZENS AND THEY PAY DEARLY FOR THAT RIGHT. FORMERLY WE WERE NOT ABLE TO HAVE HOME DELIVERY IN OUR AREA AND WERE REQUIRED TO HAVE A PO BOX. ONCE DELIVERY BECAME AVAILABLE WE RETAINED THE BOX TO INSURE OUR MAIL WAS SAFE SINCE WE WERE AT WORK ALL DAY. NOW I KEEP THE BOX SINCE I’VE ALREADY BEEN A VICTIM OF IDENITY THEFT AND DO NOT WANT MY MAIL SITTING AT THE ROAD SIDE. WHEN I SAY I FEEL WE ARE TREATED AS SECOND CLASS CITIZENS, TRY OPENING A NEW BANK ACCOUNT WHEN YOU HAVE A PO BOX. I END UP CARRYING MY TAX BILL. BUT, THEN I NEEDED TO GET A HANDICAP PARKING PERMIT AND MY TOWN WOULD NOT EVEN ACCEPT THE TAX BILL AND WANTED A UTILITY BILL IN MY NAME SENT TO THE STREET ADDRESS. UTILITY BILLS ARE IN MY HUSBANDS NAME AND ANY MAIL SENT TO THE STREET ADDRESS IS RETURNED. NOW, I ONCE AGAIN FEEL LIKE A SECOND CLASS CITIZEN WHEN WE DON’T EVEN GET A CENSUS FORM AND YET PEOPLE WHO HAVE STREET ADDRESSES HAVE GOTTEN MULTIPLE MAILINGS AND ANY ADS ON RADIO AND TV THAT ENCOURAGE POEPLE TO RETURN THE FORM, US PO BOX HOLDERS ARE NEVER TOLD WHAT TO DO TO BE COUNTED.
    FED UP PO BOX HOLDER

  11. David B says:

    I am working for the Census as a Questionnaire Assistance Center Representative, and I know that the decision to not mail forms to P O Boxes must have been made by some city slicker in Washington DC who does not understand how mail delivery works in rural areas. The USPS does not deliver mail to anyone living in the county seat of my county; all of those residents are required to have P O Boxes in order to get mail, they do not have a choice. I have been given 10 forms (English language) to distribute to 936 residents (2000 census).
    A form should have been mailed to every P O Box, along with information for the respondent to include their actual street address when returning the form. That would probably eliminate 90+% of the addresses enumerators will have to visit.

  12. JACK CARLE says:

    IF YOU WANT TO COUNT ME I AM HOME. I AM NOT GOING TO SIT AROUND AND WAIT FOR YOU, I DON’T CARE WHETHER I GET COUNTED OR NOT AND I SURE AS HELL AM NOT GOING TO CALL SOMEONE OR GO SOMEWHERE TO PICK UP A CENSUS FORM. IF YOU CAN’T SEND IT TO MY PO BOX THAN FORGET IT.

  13. C Sullivan says:

    You said that people could pick up a Be Counted form but in any case they will be visited by a census worker starting May 1. Does that mean that people with PO box who didn’t receive a form and took the trouble to find and fill out a BE Counted form (in order to avoid being contacted by a Census Worker) are still and unavoidably going to be visited in person by a Census Worker?

  14. Judith Knight says:

    We also get our mail at a post office box — not by choice — we live in a rural area of NC on a private road. There is a post office within 2 miles in the next county BUT they do not have a mounted route delivering to post office boxes. The closest town that MIGHT offer delivery is about 10 miles away. We have never investigated getting delivery from them because to get to a site where our mail box could be put up we would be driving half the distance to the post office where we maintain our box. We went through the same hassle last time with our census forms.
    If I may suggest–as an after action look at receipt of forms you investigate incorporating the 911 databases into your system for the next system. At least they are identified by name/address. We got one letter from the Census Bureau with an announcement that our census form would be received the following week. Never got it. Normally anything addressed to “Box Holder” with our physical address will never reach us. Someone–I assume our local postal clerk had pencilled “is this you?” on the envelope.
    I have contacted my regional center and something apparently each of us will be visited to be able to submit our form. I just heard that this costs at least SIXTY dollars per household. There are about FIVE HUNDRED boxes at our little post office; some of the boxes are for individuals who have 2d homes here; if half of those box holders would filing elsewhere that still means it costs FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS for our little community. Having a post office box in this part of our state is the norm, not an unusual situation–I do not know how many other areas have this problem.
    I can understand your not accepting post office boxes BUT is there no way you can change the form to have both a physical return address and a mailing address??? Changing the form would be a lot simpler than sending all those people out to do one on one interviews. I cannot believe the information on the name of a post office box is private information; you could get a list of post office boxes/names before the next census, input the data in a spreadsheet and see if you could not match names with individuals reporting this time from a specific zip code. I realize this would be costly but again, I cannot believe it would be more costly than the amount of money you are spending running down individuals who could have easily received the form if a combined mailing/physical address could be used for reporting.

  15. Perplexed says:

    It seems to me that much of the complexity created by PO Boxes, mailings, and face to face interviews by census takers could be resolved through the use of an on-line census form. It still seems ludicrous to me that in this technological era that we are relying, in the most advanced nation in the world, on paper forms, phone calls,and interview to capture statistics on millions and millions of residents. Industry in the US has been forced to rely on new technology to complete in a global economy. It is disappointing that the US government did not sieze the opportunity for US census 2010 to streamline the process, improve participation, and address complex issues like PO boxes through a process that fits the 21st century.
    The same could be said for other US government sponsored processes such as passport registration. Kudos to the IRS for moving to e-filing years ago to reduce errors and improve processing speed.

  16. Rican Havoc says:

    Just curious… if I don’t see any benefits from filling out the form what’s stopping citizens from giving wrong information just to fulfill the obligation? Apparently the law says I HAVE TO FILL IT OUT AND SUBMIT THIS FORM, but who knows if the information is correct?

  17. Carol Baber says:

    Carol said, I don’t understand the why you cant mailto PO Box’s. You can’t get a PO Box without proof of a physical address. Why can’t the Post Office put a form in every PO Box that is not a business account. They put all that junk mail in the PO Boxs.
    It has taken me two day to finally find this website. Then to find out PO Boxs don’t get a form. Why wasn’t this put out in the news,TV, paper. Then to find a regional office was not easy, then two days to get someone to answer the phone. I had left a message which no one returned. Today finally someone answered and I was told I had to go to the public library to get a form and then it was only on Friday 1-5pm and Sat. 9am to 5pm. Why isn’t the forms left at the library so anyone can pick up a form during library hours.
    Also this information is not in the local paper or maybe you could even left phone message on peoples home phones. I get message from business,sheriff, schools all the time. Anyway tomorrow I will try and get the form from the library so at least I will hopefully get counted. Its really not safe now days for some stranger to come to your house anymore.

  18. Lila says:

    We live in a rural part of texas and have not received our, I dont understand why.

  19. Lila, The Census Bureau will is still sending out questionnaires. If you have not received a questionnaire by April 12th, please contact the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance Center at 1-866-872-6868, but please note until April 12th, it is automated message. If you call after April 12th, someone will be able to help you.
    Also you can pick up a form at one of our Be Counted sites. http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/ Be counted sites are not private homes, but libraries, churches, town halls, local business etc.

  20. Tammy says:

    I have not recieved a form yet, and have someone at my house the past two days. They come at bad times and never leave anything. Could this be a real counter already?

  21. d says:

    i keep receiving forms. i’ve sent back 2 forms now. how many more is the government going to charge joe public for. pissed in seattle. fire the director1

  22. The Census Bureau is still in the process of sending out 2010 Census questionnaires. You can pick up a form at one of our Be Counted sites. http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/ Be counted sites are not private homes, but libraries, churches, town halls, local business etc. Be counted forms are available for anyone who did not receive a 2010 Census form or believes that they were missed on their household’s form.

  23. Joy Hullett says:

    i have a regular address and have not recieve a census form to fill out..does that mean my family doesn’t count?

  24. Joy H. The Census Bureau is still in the process of sending out 2010 Census questionnaires. If you have not received a questionnaire by April 12th, please contact the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance Center at 1-866-872-6868, but please note until April 12th, it is automated message. If you call after April 12th, someone will be able to help you. Also you can pick up a form at one of our Be Counted sites. http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/ Be counted sites are not private homes, but libraries, churches, town halls, local business etc. Be Counted forms available for anyone who did not receive a 2010 Census form or believes they were missed on their household’s form.

  25. D, It is possible that we have an unrecognized duplicate in our master address file that has caused you to receive a duplicate form. As part of the census process, we look for these situations and ensure we eventually delete the duplicate record. It is also possible, though we had quality control procedures on all the printing and labeling efforts, that the vendor accidentally printed two forms for the same address. Unfortunately, no quality control process can ensure zero errors. Thank you for filling out and mailing back both forms that you received. The U.S. Census Bureau has measures in place to ensure that you are not counted twice.

  26. The 2010 Census questionnaires are only delivered to residences and the Census Bureau will is still in the process of delivering the 2010 Census questionnaires. If you have not received a questionnaire by April 12th, please contact the Telephone Questionnaire Assistance Center at 1-866-872-6868, but please note until April 12th, it is automated message. If you call after April 12th, someone will be able to help you. Also you can pick up a form at one of our Be Counted sites. http://2010.census.gov/2010census/take10map/ Be counted sites are not private homes, but libraries, churches, town halls, local business etc. Be Counted forms are available for anyone who did not receive a 2010 Census form or believes that they were missed on their household’s form.

  27. Leigh says:

    I have not gotten my form. I am dissappointed in the government for not trusting the postmistresses in the small postoffices to know who has a box because they do not deliver to their home address. I can’t believe that the census is some how better off trusting “census takers” those hired for this adventure with no real track record on reliability or honesty over their own postal workers. I thought everyone had a social security number. Why can’t that be used to make sure someone isn’t filling out the form twice in two different places instead of spending millions to visit people that the postoffice refuses to provide home deliver to? To think that people in shelters who pay no taxes get better treatment towards being counted than those who pay taxes (with address listed as my post office box thank you very much)year after year shows where the concern and interest of our government rests.

  28. Rebecca Musarra says:

    I recieved my form in my PO Box so not sure what the Director is talking about.

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