The fight to flatten the curve of the coronavirus is having an impact on the 2020 U.S. census count.
A U.S. Census Bureau spokesperson confirms, because of COVID-19 and social distancing measures, the Bureau had to temporarily stop all in person interactions with the public back in March.
The Bureau confirms steps are being taken to reactivate filed offices beginning June 1 but that could change if social distancing and stay-at-home mandates continue. If they are allowed to resume, the bureau has documented that all in-person activities -- including all interaction with the public, enumeration, office work and processing activities -- will incorporate the most current guidance to promote the health and will include recommended personal protective equipment and social distancing practices.
U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham is also asking government leaders for more time to be able to collect this year’s crucial census data, and more time to be able to report the findings to the government.
The request includes:
- Statutory relief from Congress of 120 additional calendar days to deliver final apportionment counts
- Extending the window for field data collection and self-response to Oct. 31
- Allowing for apportionment counts to be delivered to the president by April 30, 2021
- Allowing redistricting data to be delivered to the states no later than July 31, 2021
In Orange County, which had several under reported areas during the 2010 census, census workers and volunteers are hoping that extra time will help them get back out into the community to reach those areas and get a more accurate count.
But Melvin Pittman, who is Orange County's Complete Count Committee Chairman, admits he's worried.
“My biggest fear is that people aren’t going to feel like its important, that there are other things in more important in life right now,” Pittman said.
However, he says he is hopeful that while people are stuck at home, they’ll take the 5 minutes needed to fill out this year’s census - whether it be on their computer, phone or on paper. He says the census numbers collected in 2020 will effect everything from redistricting political districts to reassessing the amount of federal dollars needed in your community for the next 10 years.
“It is kind of good in a way. It gives us more time to get a complete and accurate count of our population, which is going to benefit everyone in the end,” Pittman said. “I’m just hoping with the extension there’s no conflict getting the word out to people.”
Jasmine Burney-Clark with the nonprofit group Florida Counts says Florida absolutely needs this extra time.
“This extension is necessary and with COVID-19,” Burney-Clark said. “I think it will allow folks who are sitting at home the opportunity to receive that document and fill it out while they’re at home.”
She says because of social distancing, census groups are reaching out to people online and by phone instead of in person, and are even getting pamphlets to the local food banks to get the word out.
“The census affects every single aspect of your life,” Burney-Clark said. “And we are currently living and experiencing how federal dollars and federal mandates impact our state. And a national pandemic is a perfect example of why we need to make sure the census document is filled out so that we’re not only counted but cared for in the middle of a crisis.”
The latest U.S. Census data shows Orange county currently has a self response rate of a little more than 45%, just a little behind the state’s self response rate of 46% and the current national response rate of 48%.