Many aspects of life came to a sudden standstill within the last couple of weeks due to COVID-19. While work, travel and group events are either canceled or look very different than they recently did, there are a few things that remain the same. One is the 2020 census.
The census occurs once every 1- years and, unfortunately, the census scheduled for 2020 will occur in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While there are currently many things to think about that demand immediate attention, the census is still important, officials say.
Brian Anderson, the finance director for Goodhue County, has been working to inform community members about the census and had information events scheduled for the next couple of weeks before the outbreak of COVID-19. Events had to be canceled.
Despite this, Anderson is confident that states and counties have done a good job of educating the public about the decennial census.
“The virus has taken over when the census was ramping up, but I do feel that the state had a lot of good information out there through several different media,” Anderson said.
Minnesota and Wisconsin census officials have shifted efforts online.
How COVID-19 might hinder the headcount is yet to be seen and might be determined by how long the pandemic lasts.
Enumerators are scheduled to begin door knocking at the end of April and beginning of May. They will visit people who have not yet submitted their census to encourage them to fill it out.
“The U.S. Census Bureau continues to carefully monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities. We are adjusting some operations... with two key principles in mind: protecting the health and safety of our staff and the public and fulfilling our statutory requirement to deliver the 2020 Census counts to the President on schedule," the agency said in a news release.
Door knocking may be delayed to protect the enumerators and those with whom they contact. But the further away from April it gets, the less good the information becomes, officials said.
Enumerators ask who was living in a home on April 1. It can be harder for residents to remember that information as the date as time passes.
Delaying the count could also significantly impact counting college students.
For schools like the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and the University of Minnesota, enumerators are sent out two weeks before all other enumerators because students begin to leave campus in May. Many students are gone now, and even if they return, most leave again for the summer or for jobs, and sometimes new students have moved in.
The census is important for many reasons. One is that its data can be used to determine where local health funds should be spent to prepare for something like a pandemic.
While U.S. residents will fill out the census in the coming months, its impact will have a much longer impact, according to Andrew Virden, the director of census operations and engagement for the Minnesota Department of Administration .
“We have to live with an under count for a decade.”
Filling out the census
Between March 12 and March 20 homes began to receive invitations to fill out the census. Official mailings from the U.S. Census will have detailed information for submitting the census by phone, online or mail.
For more information on the census, visit: 2020census.gov.
Rachel Helgeson contributed to this article.
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