Contributed by Amara Willey.
Coming to a mailbox near you at the same time as the coronavirus (COVID-19) hits our shores, the 2020 Census has a huge impact on Federal workings for the next ten years. Determining how many Congressional representatives each state gets and how funding is allocated, the accuracy of the census numbers is vital to our democracy.
According to the Census form letter itself, results will be used to make decisions about federal funding to communities for schools, roads and other public services; local transportation and emergency readiness preparedness; and the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as political representation at all levels of government.
Because for the first time in history, respondents are being asked to answer online, all kinds of issues have arisen.
- How accurate are the online results?
Three quarters of households are receiving an invitation to complete their census online. There is concern amongst Democratic lawmakers that with the coronavirus, the Census Bureau will rely too heavily on internet responses. In addition, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has expressed concern that the Census Bureau has not adequately prepared for the possibility of computer hacking, stating it “continues to face challenges related to addressing cybersecurity weaknesses, tracking and resolving cybersecurity recommendations from the Department of Homeland Security.”
- What happens if you don’t have access to the internet?
Households can still answer via telephone or mail-in form. Also, the Census Bureau estimates that approximately 500,000 temporary workers will be going door to door assisting people with answering the questionnaires. It’s expected that 60 percent of those receiving the Census will fill it out on time on their own.
- How will the coronavirus affect the Census?
The estimated time for this door-to-door process is May through July, though that time frame may shift because of COVID-19. The Census Bureau is required to report their findings by December 31, 2020. “The planned completion date for data collection for the 2020 Census is July 31, 2020; however, that date can and will be adjusted if necessary as the situation evolves in order to achieve a complete and accurate count,” the Census Bureau said in a statement released on March 15.
The date that we are using to report the population is April 1, regardless of when the census is filled out. The best way to help this process is to fill out your form promptly. It will also ensure that you avoid a visit from a Census Bureau enumerator, which will free them up to count more difficult to reach populations, such as the homeless and those without good internet access.