Though the impact of the coronavirus has put a damper on the 2020 census, the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce’s campaign coordinator for the event has assured The Alamance News that the nationwide head count is still well underway.
The two main effects of the virus on census operations, coordinator Linda Jones explained, have been the cancellation of upcoming events meant to encourage citizens to respond to the census — the forms can be filled out online, by phone, or by mail — and the two-week suspension of hiring and training for enumerators, who arrive at doorsteps to ask individuals to fill out the census. Jones, who has been hired by the Alamance Chamber of Commerce to a position funded by Impact Alamance, is not an employee of the United States Census Bureau.
After the two-week suspension, Jones said, the bureau will re-evaluate whether to resume the hiring and training process. Those volunteers are expected to begin arriving at homes of those who haven’t responded to the census online, by phone, or by mail on May 28, ending their efforts on August 14, the coordinator explained. The planned completion date for this year’s census is July 31.
Respondents using online means can fill out their form either using an ID number given to them by a mailed census document from the bureau or by entering their home address; the website for filling out the document is mycensus2020.gov. Those who want to respond by phone are directed to call 1-844-330-2020, and those who opt for the mail-in option will receive a hard copy form from the Census Bureau.
People who haven’t responded can also expect to receive three letters requesting that they fill out the form and a fourth letter containing the form itself.
County coordinator says census number have economic, political implications
In addition to providing a head count at the local, state, and national levels, Jones explained that census numbers have direct financial impacts, most notably for local and state governments.
“Everything that touches us, in one way or another, is based upon census information,” she said.
Some of those areas include the distribution of sales tax revenue as well as federal allotments for Medicaid, Medicare, hospitals, transportation, and school systems. For every respondent, Jones said, the state receives around $1,600 for services each year.
Additionally, she said, “Businesses make decisions on where to locate based on where people live in most cases.”
Census data can also play a major role in justifying grants, with Jones saying that ethnicity, age, and rural and urban demographics are regularly considered.
Census officials are also considering 2020 as a crucial year for the state politically; North Carolina could receive another representative in the U.S. House depending on its census numbers.
The state’s 2010 census response rate was around 77 percent, with the response rate as of Tuesday afternoon being 33 percent, three points under the national response rate. In Alamance County, almost 34 percent have filled out the census.
Jones cautions against fraud
The Census Bureau, Jones said, will only call a resident if their census form has been returned and is perceived to have an error or discrepancy. Census officials will also never request a social security number or money in the form of a donation or otherwise.