While news that the U.S. Census Bureau will end the 2020 Census count a month early sparked fears across the country that the move will result in undercounts that could leave cities with less money in their coffers, Goodyear City Manager Julie Arendall is confident her city will get its fair share of the revenue pie.
“We’re fortunate that for the first time ever, the census can be completed online. An overwhelming majority of the nearly 65 percent of Goodyear residents who have completed the census took advantage of this convenient option,” said Ms. Arendall, who serves as co-chair of Maricopa Association of Governments Regional Census Communication Group.
The census bureau announced Monday, Aug. 3 the count will end Sept. 30 instead of Oct. 31.
“Goodyear has the 18th highest self-response rate in the state and we continue to find new ways to reach residents to ensure everyone is aware of the significance of being counted. This will make it easier on the enumerators who will visit households who haven’t completed the census,” Ms. Arendall said. “While the last day to be counted has moved from October to September, the U.S. Census Bureau is planning accordingly and will have a robust field data collection operation to ensure we receive responses from all households that have not yet self-responded to the 2020 Census. There is still time to avoid the knock on the door, you can complete the census in a matter of minutes online at 2020census.gov.”
Originally, the 2020 count was scheduled to end July 31, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused the bureau to suspend field operations in March and ask Congress to move the deadline to Oct. 31. The request passed the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives as part of the coronavirus-relief legislation bill, but stalled in the U.S. Senate, prompting the deadline change to September.
Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham stated in an Aug. 3 press release the bureau intends to speed up the count without sacrificing completeness.
“As part of our revised plan, we will conduct additional training sessions and provide awards to enumerators in recognition of those who maximize hours worked,” he stated. “We will also keep phone and tablet computer devices for enumeration in use for the maximum time possible.”
Residents have three ways to responded to the biennial census questionnaire — by phone, mail and for the first time, online. Households that don’t respond are scheduled to be visited by census-takers, who should begin visiting Arizona neighborhoods and knocking on doors Tuesday, Aug. 11. They will continue visiting households until Sept. 30, and the bureau will continue accepting phone, mail and online responses through that date, Mr. Dillingham stated.
“We are committed to a complete and accurate 2020 Census,” he stated. “To date, 93 million households, nearly 63 percent of all households in the nation, have responded to the 2020 Census. Building on our successful and innovative internet response option, the dedicated women and men of the Census Bureau, including our temporary workforce deploying in communities across the country in upcoming weeks, will work diligently to achieve an accurate count.”
For information on how to identify census-takers in your neighborhood, click here.
Current count status
As of Aug. 3, Arizona’s self-response rate was 59.7%, well under the national self-response rate of 63.0%. Maricopa County’s self-response rate was 63.5%. Goodyear’s self-response rate was 64.8%.
Based on 2010 Census results, Goodyear receives $343 per person in state shared revenue annually, which equaled about $25.6 million in fiscal 2020, nearly a quarter of the city’s general fund budget.
Results of the 2020 Census could change cities’ annual per-person allocation, so an accurate count is critical. The 2010 Census recorded Goodyear’s population as 65,275. In 2018, an estimated 82,835 people called the city home. In March, Ms. Arendall said 2019 estimates put the population at just under 89,000.
The city’s Census Count Committee has continued to promote census participation on its website and social media platforms as well as with banners throughout the city, and will continue working to remind residents to be counted.
Why it’s important to be counted
The census touches nearly every aspect of life in America, including:
Congressional representation. A larger population may mean a larger voice in Congress. A fast-growing state like Arizona could pick up another seat in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives based on the 2020 count.
States’ share of $1.5 trillion in federal tax revenue distribution. Arizona receives $2,959 per person in federal dollars annually, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That money funds everything from Medicare and other healthcare programs for children and adults, to Head Start and school lunches, to road, highway and other infrastructure projects. For every Arizonan who isn’t uncounted, the state stands to lose $887 in federal funding, according to azcensus2020.gov, the state’s informational website on the 2020 Census. If just 1% of the state’s population is undercounted, Arizona would lose $62 million annually, for a total loss of $620 million through 2030, the website states.
Commerce. Businesses use the data collected to determine where to open new stores, restaurants, factories and offices, where to expand operations, where to recruit employees and which products and services to offer.
Real estate. Developers use census data to decide the location and type of housing to build based on population count and community demographics. The West Valley has become a hotbed of development, and an undercount could result in companies choosing to bypass cities like Litchfield Park and Goodyear.
Grassroots. Residents use the census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life and consumer advocacy.
The 2020 questions
The 2020 Census questionnaire asks responders to report the number of people living in their household as if April 1, 2020, permanently or temporarily, and whether they rent or own the home. It also asks for the names, ages, dates of birth, genders and race of those living in the household, and whether they are of Hispanic, Latin or Spanish origin.
It does not ask for citizenship status. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2019 it was unconstitutional to include a citizenship question on the Census questionnaire.
Responses to the census are completely confidential. Under title 13 of the U.S. Code, the U.S. Census Bureau cannot share census data with any other person, organization, court, business or government agency.
For more information on the census, visit 2020Census.gov. Arizona-specific information can be found at AZCensus2020.gov.
Kelly O’Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 760-963-1697.