Wrong addresses, extra envelopes cause census confusion

Posted: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A mass mailing to inform residents about Census 2000 has instead caused mass confusion.

First, a computer glitch added an extra digit to street addresses. Someone living at 123 Main St., for instance, would get an envelope addressed to 1123 Main St.

State census office manager Chuck McGee said that a lot of people are calling to say they received letters intended for different addresses.

Inside each envelope is a letter saying that census forms will be mailed next week, and asking that they be promptly filled out and returned. It also notes that census workers are still being hired.

But there's also an envelope and no explanation as to its use -- well, no explanation in English. On the back of the letter, paragraphs in Spanish, Tagalog, Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese explain that the envelope can be used to request census forms in those languages.

The agency has received irate calls about the mailing.

''Some think it's a waste of tax dollars to send out all those envelopes, and some are simply angry that there was no English explanation,'' McGee said.

Others are more confused than irate. They want to know whether the envelopes should be saved for the actual census form, or whether they can be used to submit job applications.

The answer to both questions is no, McGee saod. The forms are too big for the small envelope, and job seekers should contact their local census office.

McGee acknowledged that there should have been an English explanation on the letter but adds that this is not a local mistake.

In fact, it was a nationwide goof. About 120 million American homes got the incorrectly addressed letters with the mystifying extra envelopes.

The addressing problem didn't keep the letters from being delivered. That's because the computer added extra digits only to the printed addresses -- the bar-code information underneath each address was correct. That allowed automated postal equipment to sort the mail accurately.

The Census Bureau notified the U.S. Postal Service, which instructed its carriers to deal with the incorrect addresses.

The Census Bureau's goal is to have all forms filled out and returned by April 1. After that, workers will begin knocking on doors to request tardy forms.

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