by Vanessa Crow, Complete Count Census Committee Chair
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Census Bureau has radically altered its operations for the 2020 Census including, for the first time since it was first conducted in 1790, delaying the reporting of the results. Every 10 years the Census officially kicks off its operations on April 1st, which this year passed with much muted fanfare as our country shut down schools, businesses, and non-essential operations in a bid to slow the transmission of the coronavirus. Stay-at-home orders in almost every state have caused the Census Bureau, state and city governments, and community partners to scramble to come up with new avenues of approach for reaching out to hard-to-count communities.
As a result, the Census Bureau officially pushed back all deadlines for the self-response period, the nonresponse follow-up period (also known as in-person enumeration), and the data processing period. Here is what you need to know:
- The self-response period, where you can respond by mail, by phone, or online at my2020census.gov, has been extended from July 31st to October 31st.
- In-person enumeration, where Census Bureau officials will interview non-responding households in person, will begin August 11 and end October 31st.
- The Census Bureau will report the results of the Census to the President by April 30, 2021.
- The Census Bureau will report the results of the Census to the states for redistricting between May 1st, 2021 and July 31st, 2021.
The overall impact of this change is to give the Census Bureau and its partners, including the League of Women Voters, more time to complete this important work. Census outreach efforts have been severely hindered by social distancing regulations, and there is a real risk that this year’s undercount will be the worst in recent memory. Right now, North Carolina’s self-response rate is only 51.8% compared to the national average of 56.3%. It is estimated that every individual counted in North Carolina will bring in $1,600 a year for the next 10 years in federal funds used for valuable programs like Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, Smart Start, community improvement grants, and many more. That means that an undercount will cost our communities millions of dollars that could be spent improving the lives of our friends and neighbors who need this money the most.
Importantly for North Carolina, and the work of the League of Women Voters of Wake County, the Census is used to calculate electoral districts and determine the number of representatives our state has in Congress. An undercount of our population will impact the financial well-being and the political representation in our state for the next ten years.
What can you do to help? What we need most is for people fill out the census and then to spread the word. Are you part of a neighborhood group on Facebook? A PTA group? Another volunteer organization? Tell them all to fill out the Census. Do you live in an apartment complex? Ask if you can post a sign about the census near the mail boxes; flyers are available to print from our website at https://www.lwvwake.org/complete-count-census. Are there neighbors you greet (from a safe distance) while going for a walk? Tell them, too.
Family, friends, and everyone else that you communicate with should all be encouraged to fill out the Census. Forward this article to everyone you know, and encourage them to forward it along as well. This year, we have to come together as a community to make sure everyone gets counted.