The recent outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States has caused many changes among the community. Businesses have been required to shut their doors, employees are working from home, and students are participating in online learning. There is great concern that the 2020 Census will be greatly affected.
The coronavirus has led to the cancellation of the NBA season, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and many festivals. However, the Census Bureau is making efforts to assure that people do not forget to respond to their census questionnaires amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
The census is crucial to the upcoming presidential election as well as the U.S. democracy. The counts are used to determine the number of representatives given to each state in the House of Representatives. It also sets the parameters of the Electoral College.
On March 11, the Census Bureau made a statement saying that they are carefully monitoring COVID-19 and following the guidance of health authorities. However, the census must go on.
“We must fulfill our constitutional obligation to deliver the 2020 Census counts to the President of the United States on schedule,” reads the statement. This is one of the two “key principles” the Census Bureau says they are following. The other is counting everyone only once and in the correct location.
As of March 20, all households should have received invitations to participate in the 2020 Census. There are instructions on how to respond available in 13 different languages, including English, so 99% of households are able to respond in their preferred language.
Citizens can respond on paper, online, or over the phone. The phone lines are open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. EDT.
“Group quarters,” the operation which counts people in nursing homes, dorms, and prisons is also able to respond in multiple ways, including online and through self-enumeration. The same applies to service-based enumeration, which counts homeless citizens where they receive services.
According to Terri Ann Lowenthal, the former staff director of the House Census Overnight Subcommittee, COVID-19 is posing a serious challenge for the census.
“…the coronavirus could not have struck at a worse time,” says Lowenthal.
The Census Bureau, however, is working to combat these issues. Officials and community liaisons are urging people to take advantage of the digital format.
“It has never been easier to respond on your own, whether online, over the phone or by mail—all without having to meet a census taker,” said the Census Bureau in a statement.
The Census Bureau’s nonresponse follow-up operation will be starting as early as April 9 in some communities. Colleges and universities are being instructed to contact their students who may have returned home, according to US News. These students should be counted in the town of their college.
The Census Bureau also has a contingency budget for hiring workers, mailing reminders, and managing operations at different offices for the 2020 Census.
If you have any questions or want more information, you can contact the Public Information Office at 301-763-3030 or by email at email@example.com.