This year’s decennial census ― a constitutionally required count of the American populace that’s vital to determine congressional districts and allocate $1.5 trillion in funding ― just so happens to come at the same time the country is in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
You’ve likely already received mail from the U.S. Census Bureau providing you with a code to use online to fill out the census now. Eleven million households had filled out their census forms as of Wednesday, according to the Census Bureau.
The Census Bureau announced on Wednesday that it is suspending all field operations until April 1. It already announced a delay for its counts of people living in student housing and the homeless.
But eventually, field operations are expected to start up again ― which means sending field workers door to door to ask questions in person.
That could be unsafe, and it can definitely be minimized. You can help. The best way to reduce future in-person contacts by Census Bureau field workers ― and, thus, prevent the unnecessary spread of the coronavirus ― is to fill out your census form online, on the phone or by mail now.
The Census Bureau still anticipates deploying about 500,000 field workers beginning in late May to knock on the doors of people who did not respond to their forms, but there may be future disruptions related to the pandemic.
“The public is strongly encouraged to respond to the 2020 Census online using a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet, and can also respond by phone or mail,” Steven Dillingham, director of the Census Bureau, said in a statement on Wednesday. “Everyone should respond to the 2020 Census as soon as they receive their invitation — and when they’re finished, they can make sure their friends, families and social networks know about the importance of responding.”
Not everyone is going to be able to respond now. Many people lack a fixed address, have limited internet access, move regularly or lack English proficiency.
But those of us who can should fill out our census forms now to enable the bureau’s field workers to focus only on people with the most difficulty responding to the census — and not on people who could have, but failed, to fill out their forms. The more people who fill out their forms now means fewer doors to knock and, thus, less potential exposure to the virus for field workers.
It’s just one small thing to do to make life easier for those who will have to go out and fulfill the Constitution’s call for a full count of the American people.