The U.S. Census Bureau has begun following up this week with households in California that have not responded to the 2020 Census, which is the final stage of conducting the once-a-decade population count of everyone living in the United States.
Based on the current national self-response rate of 63.3 percent, the Census Bureau estimates it will need to visit about 56 million addresses to collect responses in person. To make this happen, nearly 500,000 census takers across the country will go door to door to assist people in responding to the 2020 Census, according to a news release.
“There’s over $675 billion each year that the federal government spends on local programs,” said Thomas Brown, the fiscal and policy analyst for Kern County and Co-Chair of the Kern Complete Count Committee. “Our share of that money is determined on population, so if we have an undercount then we’re going to receive less dollars than we need here locally for local programs.”
In most cases, census workers will make up to six attempts at each housing unit address to count possible residents. This includes leaving notification of the attempted visit on the door. The notification will include reminder information on how to respond online, by paper or by phone. In addition, census workers may try to reach the household by phone to conduct the interview.
Door-to-door visits have begun just a week after the Bureau announced it is cutting the deadline by a whole month. The deadline to fill out the Census is now Sept. 30, 2020. It was originally extended to Oct. 31 due to the pandemic and operations being postponed.
“The covid-19 pandemic made it difficult for census operations to take place as scheduled,” said Cristina Camacho, regional campaign manager for NALEO Educational Fund. “A lot of things had to be postponed or cancelled. So the proposed four month extension was a way for us to be able to do the same work with a pandemic going on.”
The change to Sept. 30th is to ensure the data can be processed by the Bureau’s deadline of Dec. 31, 2020. However, many local organizations fear the shortened timeline will only make it harder for Kern to get an accurate count, and some are pressuring U.S. congress to push back certain reporting deadlines to ensure a fair and accurate Census count.
“The shortening of this four month extension to now Sept. 30 will definitely make it that much more difficult to get an accurate and full count,” said Camacho.
The Kern Complete Count Committee is using this time to push a Census campaign calling for Kern residents to respond. Kern’s response rate of 58.8 percent falls behind the state’s response rate of 64.5 percent.
With Kern County being so large and diverse, the committee’s outreach efforts have consisted of English, Spanish, Punjabi, Tagalog messaging.
According to Brown, the committee has partook in interviews and created tv commercials, newspaper ads, and billboards. Within the next two months they want to send out text messages and targeted ads that will pop up on social media in targeted demographics.
The Census Bureau says it is confident in getting an accurate count while speeding up the process. A statement from the U.S Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham explained that they are holding more training sessions for the enumerators and awards them maximizing their hours worked.
“We will improve the speed of our count without sacrificing completeness,” Dillingham said in a statement.
The Bureau is also still hiring census takers, also known as enumerators, to go door to door. To have a robust hiring pool, the Census Bureau will continue to accept applications at 2020census.gov/jobs to deepen the bench of qualified workers, said Angelica Vasquez, the Bureau’s Media Communication Specialist for ht eLos Angeles Regional Census Center.
“Our goal is to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Vasquez.
Households can still respond now by responding online at 2020census.gov or 2020census.gov/es (Spanish website) by phone at 844-330-2020 or the Spanish line at 844-468-2020, or by completing and mailing back the paper questionnaire they received. Households can respond online or by phone in one of 13 languages and find assistance in many more. Those that respond will not need to be visited to obtain their census response.
The U.S. Constitution mandates a census of the population every 10 years. The goal of the 2020 Census is to count everyone who lives in the United States. Census statistics are used to determine the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives and informs how billions of dollars in federal funds will be allocated by state, local and federal lawmakers annually for the next 10 years.