Census 2020

Toddler moms and caregivers take a few minutes during Toddler Time at the PC Library to complete the 2020 census online, their babies in tow. Georgia’s children under the age of five were the highest under counted population in the 2010 census. Pictured l-r: Julia and Charlotte Dyer, Danni Quick holding Riley Ann Quick and Liza Kate Musselwhite (not visible), Harmony Burroughs and Library Assistant Manager Bertie Allen. Editor’s Note: This photo was taken before the library closed as a coronavirus precaution.

Complete the census online, via phone or by mail

Census Day is April 1, but as the 2020 census rapidly approaches, many across the country wonder how the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will affect the process.

The 2020 Census has suspended field operations for two weeks, but will otherwise proceed as normal. U.S. census officials are encouraging citizens to complete the process online at my2020census.gov or fill out the questionnaire many have already received in the mail and mail it back. Pierce Countians can also call the census hotline at 1-844-330-2020 to complete the census by phone.

It has never been easier to respond on your own, whether online, over the phone or by mail — all without having to meet a census taker.

As of last week, over 5 million Americans had responded online to the 2020 Census. Currently, the planned completion date for data collection for the 2020 Census is July 31, 2020, but that date may be adjusted depending on the nation’s response to the coronavirus. The Census Bureau’s goal remains the same  — to achieve a complete and accurate count.

Census workers were initially scheduled to begin in-person follow up visits with unresponsive households April 9, but that effort has been delayed until April 23 for now.

The Census Bureau has adjusted operations to make sure college students who have been sent home as universities and colleges across the nation closed due to the coronavirus are counted, and is working with senior group home administrators to make sure their residents are properly counted without sending a census worker into the facility — most of which are not allowing visitors, also in response to the coronavirus.

College students living in on-campus housing are counted through their university as part of the census’ Group Quarters Operation, which counts all students living in university owned housing. In addition to college dormitories, the Group Quarters Operation also includes places like nursing homes, group homes, halfway houses and prisons.

Per the Census Bureau’s residence criteria, in most cases students living away from home at school should be counted at school, even if they are temporarily elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Census Bureau is encouraging administrators of group housing to choose a way to count their residents that requires less in-person contact.

Why does the census matter?

The census, a count of America’s population conducted every 10 years, matters for two reasons  — money and power.

Each year more than $40 billion returns to Georgia through “formula funding.” Those dollars provide services crucial to our quality of life, and we can’t afford to lose them.

Everyone counts.

Pierce County had a 78 percent participation rate in the 2010 Census. Per capita, a similar response rate this year would mean an undercount of approximately 4,400 residents, and a substantial loss in funding.

“This will result in a potential loss of $23,000 per citizen over the next 10 years for programs that would not be properly funded. It is more important than ever to make sure everyone who lives in your household on April 1 is counted in the census regardless of their age, employment or immigration status,” says County Manager Jason Rubenbauer.

Services that receive funding based on census data include the education system, public safety, road improvements, parks and recreation.

“The census results help us achieve additional funding for the services we offer,” Rubenbauer says. “The census also helps economic development recruitment by determining the available workforce which business and industry leaders use to help them find a location for new or expanded operations.”

Industrial Development Authority Director Matt Carter agrees.

“Data from the census informs a wide range of government, business and nonprofit decision making. Governments and nonprofit organizations rely on census data to determine the need for new roads, hospitals, schools and other public sector investments,” Carter says. “We are often asked about the population and workforce counts for new and expanding businesses.”

Much of the federal funding Georgia receives as a result of the census directly impacts educational programs in our public school system.

“(The census process) provides much needed and necessary funding for school system programs such as Headstart, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and STEAM  (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) programs, special education programs, before/after school programs and food and nutrition services,” says Dr. Kevin Smith, school superintendent. “These programs have a direct impact upon the learning opportunities and success that all of our students here in Pierce County experience.”

Decision-making power on the state and national level that affects folks here at home comes by political representation, a process calculated by census data.

There are 435 members in Congress and after each census comes reapportionment of those members.  It’s a zero-sum game – when one state gains a representative, another state loses a representative.  

Census counts are the foundational element for drawing Congressional districts, but are also used to determine the state House of Representatives, state Senate, and some county commission, city council or school board districts.

The 2020 Census marks the first time the census has been conducted online. The Bureau’s decision to move online garnered much criticism early in the process, but is now the primary reason why the census will move ahead uninhibited in the midst of a pandemic.

Citizens can complete the census on a computer, tablet or smartphone. The traditional paper survey is still available as well, and the census can be completed by phone, too.

Some households received a form in mid-March, but others may not receive a form until mid-April. Every household will receive a paper copy of the form if someone has not completed the census online or by phone.

Those who don’t complete the census form by one of these methods, will receive an in-person visit later this year from a census worker – up to six times.

Is your information safe?

Yes, so be honest when completing the survey.

By law, no one’s information can be accessed by any federal, state, or local agency, Congress, the White House or any other entity.  

The only types of questions on Census 2020 include your age and birthdate, race, ethnicity, relationship to the householder, sex, whether you own or rent your home and the number of persons living in your home.

You will never be asked for money, your social security number, any banking information or your political affiliation.  

The Census Bureau will never contact you by email or social media. All information from the Census Bureau will be transmitted by U.S. Mail and any person coming to your door will have valid Census Bureau identification. If you have any questions about the validity of the person or the survey, you can contact the Census Bureau Atlanta Regional Office.

For more information, visit www.census.georgia.gov or www.census.gov.