GAO cites benefits of Census-Postal Service teamwork

Two cash-strapped federal entities, the Census Bureau and the U.S. Postal Service, have achieved solid efficiencies by working together and are pursuing additional opportunities in preparing for the 2020 census, the Government Accountability Office reported on Friday.

The Postal Service can help Census reduce the number of census forms that end up undeliverable (19 million in 2010) because of error or because a residential property is unoccupied, the auditors noted. Census can help USPS update its local-address databases and plan and update delivery routes, the report said.

Another possibility is for Census to hire retired local mail carriers as temporary field-staff census takers, though GAO raised questions about that idea's cost-effectiveness.

Census and the Postal Service have been collaborating at least since the early 1990s, and they signed a joint memorandum of understanding in 1995. But auditors were told by Census managers that in the past, the bureau has benefited more than the mail service. The memo is under revision and is expected to be ready in 2011.

Because the Postal Service is downsizing, its managers had hoped to free up office facilities for use by census workers, but the properties may instead be sold, the auditors learned.

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