In time of COVID-19, Census 2020 moves forward

Posted 3/28/20

The Census count had kicked into gear a couple weeks ago  — citizens began receiving invitation letters in the mail that included instructions on how to respond to the census. Local …

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In time of COVID-19, Census 2020 moves forward

Posted

The Census count had kicked into gear a couple weeks ago  — citizens began receiving invitation letters in the mail that included instructions on how to respond to the census. Local municipalities had gone into full promotion mode in hopes of ensuring all their residents were counted.

But the novel coronavirus crisis put a halt on the Census Bureau field work and pushed back some key deadlines.

To help slow the spread of coronavirus, field operations were suspended for two weeks until April 1, Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham stated in a news release.

“The Census Bureau is taking this step to help protect the health and safety of the American public, Census Bureau employees, and everyone going through the hiring process for temporary census taker positions,” he stated.

For most people, the delay meant citizens received an extension for responding to the 2020 Census. The original deadline to respond was July 31. Now it has been extended two weeks to Aug. 14.

But for the first time, residents have the option to respond to the survey online, which has opened up the door for the availability of real time results.

Arizonans have responded below the national response rate, but residents of Maricopa County have responded above the national rate.

As of March 26, 28.1% of the nation had completed their Census. About 27.5% of the state of Arizona has responded; 29.8% of Maricopa County has responded; 29.9% of Pima County has responded; and 15.7% of Coconino County has responded.

Here are the response rates for selected Valley cities, as of March 25.

  • Glendale: 26.6%
  • Phoenix: 26.6%
  • Peoria: 33.4%
  • Paradise Valley: 32.3%
  • Scottsdale: 30.9%
  • Surprise: 34.7%
  • Tolleson: 23.2%
  • Wickenburg: 27.2%

The U.S. Constitution mandates a census of the population every 10 years and ensures federal and state governments properly distribute funds for things like public safety, transportation, education, and social services.

An accurate census count is a priority to cities and towns because it allows them to receive their fair share of more than $675 billion in federal funding for essential services, as well as provides data and growth trends for a real-time perspective of what to expect in the future.

Over the last year, municipalities have been informing their residents about the importance of the count. With the coronavirus canceling city and town events, the safety and well being of residents became a top priority. But municipalities continue to get the word out.

In Peoria, where the response rate is above the national and state rate, spokeswoman Kristina Perez said city staff and volunteers are still actively promoting the census, and even including it as part of outreach for the coronavirus pandemic.

“Most recently, we have been repurposing candy bags from the canceled Dolly Sanchez Memorial Easter Egg Hunt. Those bags now contain census promotional items that will be distributed to local Peoria businesses to handout to takeout/delivery customers,” Ms. Perez said. “Also, we’ve added census fliers to the meal bags that are being distributed at the Peoria Community Center. We’ve been continuing to share messaging on our website, social media pages and our resident newsletters.”

Most citizens should have received their invitation letters by now. If you have not received a letter, go to census.gov. The letter includes instructions on how to respond to the Census. It will provide a Census ID that will allow respondents to take the survey online. If a household is unable to enter the Census ID, people can still respond by providing their address. Lack of an ID code should not keep individuals from responding.

If a household does not respond to any invitations, a census taker will follow up in person.

In late May, census takers around the nation will begin visiting households that have not yet responded to the 2020 Census to help complete the count.

“As we continue to monitor the evolving COVID-19 outbreak, we will adjust census taker and survey operations as necessary in order to follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities,” Mr. Dillingham stated.

The Census is confidential under penalty of law — businesses and citizens’ personal information is kept private. The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by federal law to protect respondents’ information, and data is used only for statistical purposes. Records may be released after 72 years.

All Census Bureau staff take a lifetime oath to protect citizens’ personal information, and any violation comes with a penalty of up to $250,000 and/or up to five years in prison.

As for the survey, it includes a list of questions that should be easily answered. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, they will ask:

  • How many people are living or staying at your home on April 1, 2020? This will help include the entire U.S. population and ensure people are counted according to where they live on Census Day.
  • Whether the home is owned or rented. This will help produce statistics about homeownership and renting. The rates of homeownership serve as one indicator of the nation’s economy. They also help in administering housing programs and informing planning decisions.
  • About the sex of each person in your home. This allows officials to create statistics about males and females, which can be used in planning and funding government programs. This data can also be used to enforce laws, regulations, and policies against discrimination.

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