Just when efforts were starting to ramp up to ensure that all people living in the United States on April 1 were counted in the 2020 Census, a global pandemic threw those plans into chaos, but counties, cities and organizations pivoted to embrace virtual channels and continue to stress the importance of the Census.
Today, as states and cities emerge from weeks of sheltering at home, efforts to ensure everyone is counted are getting reenergized to meet the new completion deadline of October 2020.
“The measures we had to take to flatten the curve in our community presented some obstacles to the outreach strategies we had planned,” said Sophia Johnson, President, ABI. “This crisis has had impact, but it has in no way derailed our efforts to make sure that hard-to-count populations get the message. Our experiences with COVID-19 have shown us that now, more than ever, we need to make sure that everyone is counted because we are preparing for the next 10 years today.”
The impact of the pandemic and the measures to stem its spread in Dallas County have stressed the need to have an accurate population count that ensures an appropriate level of resources—medical, food, and education—to face it successfully, Sophia, President, ABI added.
An increased reliance on the Internet to remotely perform daily tasks will allow those who have yet to fill out their Census forms an option to avoid coming into contact with strangers by answering the questionnaire online using any device that has internet access—computers, tablets, smartphones. People can also fill it out by phone or use the paper form that was recently mailed out to millions of households.
An accurate count of the U.S. population determines how hundreds of billions of dollars of public funds are allocated for community services like free food, social support programs, and technology infrastructure. Businesses use it to figure out where to expand and school districts use it to figure out where to open new schools or add classrooms.
Even before the pandemic forced groups to change their outreach strategies, governments and nonprofits knew that they faced a number of challenges to get an accurate count from the start. The fight that emerged around including a citizenship question and the current immigration crackdown instilled fear of the Census among some communities and spurred the need for increased outreach to dispel misinformation.
“We knew it would be imperative to get the message out that information provided through the Census is kept confidential for more than 70 years,” said Florencia Velasco Fortner, President, The Concilio.
Currently, slightly over 57 percent of Dallas County households have responded to the 2020 Census, but organizers hope that redoubled outreach efforts and the extended response deadline of October 31, 2020 will help increase that number. For information about the 2020 Census available in several languages visit www.2020Census.gov or call 844-330-2020.