Census 2020

In the face of this unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, getting an accurate census count has never been more important. Census numbers guide the distribution of billions of federal dollars and determine how many congressional seats each state gets. Historically, it has been challenging to get accurate census counts among low-income communities, in particular communities of color and households with young children.1 These challenges make getting an accurate count in large portions of the South especially hard.2 Many major cities and states in the South have allocated resources to promote the census this year. Because of the need for social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, the U.S. Census Bureau suspended in-person field data collection activities in March — with a goal of restarting the process in June — and extended the window for field data collection and self-response to October 31. As of late April, nearly 53 percent of all households in America had responded.3 But with the COVID-19 outbreak disrupting field collection, filling out the census has become an afterthought for many residents. The federal government should expand the 2020 Census marketing and promotion budget for online and digital communications. Further, the U.S. Census Bureau should adjust its census enumeration online and by phone by promoting those options through social media, email and SMS communications. Census mailings should include easy instructions and encourage people to complete the form by phone or online as the safest options to maintain social distancing. It is essential that cities and states push additional measures as well to support residents connecting with the U.S. Census Bureau and completing their 2020 Census so their communities can be counted.