Revised 2020 Census Bureau operations push more people to participate

2 mins read

Cities and organizations work to get more citizens and US residents counted in the 2020 Census in another spike of Covid-19.

The Census Bureau still works to find its legs to run at full capacity after the Covid-19 pandemic delayed its efforts in March. Currently, the national self-response rates at 61.9 percent. Reporting is 4.6 percent lower than the 2010 response rate, and 5.6 percent behind the 2000 census. With about 4 in 10 households having yet to report to the 2020 Census, now the Bureau implements more aggressive approaches. 

Last month, the Bureau began to make follow up phone calls and initiate “soft launches” of census offices as they gauged Covid-19 infection rates in states. While they provided personal protective equipment to census takers who traveled door-to-door, they brought in two new executive staff to work on more accurate reporting during the pandemic.

“Recognizing that our data collections are becoming increasingly complex and rely upon new technologies, innovations and reforms, it is imperative that we consider public, private, and not-for-profit sector needs for relevant and quality data,” said Census Bureau Director Dr. Steven Dillingham in a released statement.

Additional census offices will be set up in selected areas starting the week of July 20. In an attempt to get more non-responding households to participate, the Bureau plans to hire local community members, many who will be bilingual to visit homes or make calls that encourage residents to cooperate.

| Read: Can we claim Wakanda? Race, writings and the US Census |

With reporting in urban centers lower than state reports, measures focusing on cities have increased. Newark, the hardest hit city in New Jersey during the height of the first wave of Covid-19, announced that it will host “Pop-Up Census Sites” through the month of July.  A collaborative effort with  Newark Public Library, the sites are in parking lots and courtyards. “It is more important than ever for Newark’s population to be fairly and accurately counted, so that we can be properly represented in Congress and receive all the federal support and assistance our city deserves,” said Mayor Ras Baraka. 

Another change is the timeline to submit. In all areas of reporting the Bureau has increased reporting times by several months.

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Leading up to the census, there were challenges of the process in place. So much so, in 2018, the NAACP filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland against the government for already being underfunding. “The Census must not serve as a mechanism for diluting the political power of African-American communities and depriving them of their fair share of federal resources for an entire decade,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO.

According to a report by Science Magazine, the Trump Administration’s line item for the census was already $2.3 billion below what is needed for it to run at full scale before Covid-19. Now with the Covid-19 crisis, the Bureau requires more funding to adjust to the additional costs of longer and expanded operations. The Insights Association, representing the market and data industry released an open letter asking for $1.681 billion “to adequately address other emergencies that may jeopardize the 2020 Census.” 

The Census data maps out congressional seats, as well as it determines federal funding for local communities in the areas of healthcare, education, roads, housing, and other services. Historically communities of color, and poor communities are not adequately funded from census data reporting due to underreporting.

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