The novel coronavirus outbreak has shifted the operations of various organizations over the last three months.
The U.S. Census Bureau is no different.
In the age of social distancing, the Bureau has had to scale down in-person outreach, including those door-to-door knocks to inform people to complete their questionnaire.
The deadline to self-respond to the census has been extended to Oct. 31. After that, field workers will start coming to homes to try and help people fill out their questionnaire.
But Arizonans are already doing their part to be counted. The state’s overall self-response rate as of Friday was 56.3%, but is below the national rate of 59.8%. Maricopa County’s response rate was 60.7%, slightly above the nation.
“Arizona is doing such a great job,” said Tammy Parise, Census Partnership Coordinator in Arizona. “Our residents are rising to the challenge, using this time at home to respond to the census. And we’re happy to see the response rate that we have.”
Across the U.S., more than 88.5 million households as of Friday had filled out their questionnaires, with a self-response rate of 59.8%. Of those self-responses, 48.3% were online.
Several Valley cities’ self-response rates were above the national average, and others were below:
Litchfield Park 67.4%
Paradise Valley: 66.8%
Queen Creek: 63.2%
Apache Junction: 49.7%
Response rates for Sun City and Sun City West, both unincorporated communities, are not available via the online tracker at www.2020census.gov/en/response-rates.
However, people can use Census Tract codes for certain geographical areas to get an estimate of the self-response rate in their community. Visit www.bit.ly/censustract to check where your address falls under.
For example, Independent Newsmedia’s Sun City office is within Census Tract 6174, which has a self-response rate of 70.2%. The tracts covering Sun City West show response rates above 70%.
“We’re doing great. People are responding to the census,” Ms. Parise said. “They know the importance. We’re in the time of COVID-19 pandemic where our healthcare resources are being stretched very thin and utilized in a profound way. Census data informs where hospitals are needed. It informs what communities need. We have not seen the attention shift off the Census despite the pandemic, so we are happy to see close to 60% of households nationwide have already responded to the census, which is great.”
Coronavirus effects on Census
Questionnaires began arriving in households in mid-March, just as Census officials suspended field operations in response to guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for reducing the spread of COVID-19. In May, the Bureau slowly ramped up operations again to complete the hiring process for field workers.
The count was originally scheduled to end July 31, but the Bureau pushed the date to Aug. 14 after suspending operations. They then asked Congress to extend the count through October. Congress approved the request and extended the deadline for delivering apportionment counts to the president and Congress from Dec. 31 to April 30, 2021. They also moved the deadline for delivering redistricting data to the states to July 31, 2021, according to the census website.
Census workers initially were slated to complete a count of those living in college dormitories, military barracks and other group domiciles on June 5. The date has been extended to Sept. 3.
Ms. Parise said the Census Bureau has relied on its large partner base of nonprofits, governments and agencies to reach out to communities while field operations halted.
“We have seen them do Facebook Lives, we have had Census concerts, to really keep that momentum going in a virtual environment where we were under the stay-at-home order,” Ms. Parise said. “While it’s been a challenge, our partners have helped us in Census messaging, and we are on track to count everybody within our timeframe.”
The count for people staying at RV parks, marinas and hotels if they do not usually live elsewhere is tentatively scheduled Sept. 3-28, the website states. The schedule for counting the homeless at shelters, encampments, parks, all-night businesses and other sites is under review.
A count of households that didn’t fill out their questionnaires originally scheduled May 13-July 31 will now run Aug. 11-Dec. 31, according to the website.
Jobs still available
The Bureau is still hiring for field positions in Arizona, with a special need in La Paz, Greenlee and Navajo counties.
Despite COVID-19, the pay rates in those counties have not changed. It’s $16/hour in La Paz and Greenlee, and $16.5/hour in Navajo County. Those looking in Maricopa County can still expect to earn $19/hour.
“If you need a job, go on 2020census.gov/jobs, put your name in the pool of applicants because we did see some attrition,” Ms. Parise said. “We’re happy to pull some applicants from our list... so if you know anyone that’s interested, push them our way.”
Why the count is important
The census is mandated by the U.S. Constitution and has been every conducted every 10 years since 1790, when 650 U.S. marshals carried out the first count. This year marks the first time people can fill out their census questionnaires online. They also can respond by mail or telephone.
The count ensures that communities across the country get their fair share of federal tax dollars and population-based state-shared funds. An undercount could mean the loss of millions of dollars to Arizona, its counties and cities, resulting in fewer programs and services.
According to the Census Bureau, the census impacts nearly every aspect of life in the U.S., 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.
Share of $675 billion in federal tax revenue distribution: Arizona currently receives $2,959 per person in federal dollars annually. 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 not counted, the state stands to lose $887 in federal funding, according to www.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 where and what type of housing to build based on population count and community demographics.
Grassroots: Residents use census data to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality-of-life and consumer advocacy.
Impacts on cities
Arizona cities depend on population-based allocations from four state shared revenues — sales, income, vehicle license and gas taxes — to provide services like recreation programming, parks maintenance and development, police and fire, street repairs and maintenance, among others. An accurate count ensures each city receives its share of revenues.
Based on 2010 Census results, Goodyear receives $343 per person in state shared revenues annually, totaling $25.6 million in fiscal 2020 — or nearly a quarter of the city’s general fund budget. Litchfield Park receives $344 per person in state shared revenues, which equaled $1.878 million in FY2020 — also a quarter of the general fund budget.
The 2010 Census recorded Goodyear’s population as 65,275. In 2018, an estimated 82,835 people called the city home. City Manager Julie Arendall said in March that 2019 estimates put the population at just under 89,000.
The 2010 Census recorded Litchfield Park’s population as 5,476. The 2015 mid-decade count recorded the city’s population as 6,152, and in 2019, the population was estimated at 6,809. During a March interview at City Hall, Management Assistant Sonny Culbreth predicted the population will top 7,000.
“At $344 per person, that would be an additional $500,000,” in the city’s general fund budget annually, Assistant City Manager Matthew Williams said during the interview.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released new population estimates for the past decade, showing Buckeye as the second-fastest growing city over 50,000 people on a percentage basis since 2010.
The Census estimates that Buckeye’s population on July 1, 2019 was 79,620, representing a 56.6% increase since the 2010 Census. That places Buckeye behind only Frisco, Texas. Buckeye was the only Arizona city to make the list of the top 10 fastest-growing cities since 2010.
Goodyear, with a 33.1% increase, was No. 14 on the list.
Who should be counted?
Everyone living in a residence as of April 1, whether they are the homeowner, renter or someone staying in the house temporarily, should be included when responders fill out census forms.
Many Valley cities have winter residents with homes in other states or countries. If they were in Maricopa County on April 1, they should be counted there.
The 2020 Census questionnaire asks responders to report the number of people living in their household — permanently or temporarily — and whether they rent or own the home. It also asks for the names, ages, dates of birth, genders, race and relationships 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.
Visit www.icount2020.info for more information on the Census.