WARRENSBURG — In addition to affecting almost every aspect of everyday life, the COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted the procedures of the decennial census.
U.S. Census Bureau Regional Director of the Chicago Region Marilyn Sanders oversees all census operations in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin.
As of May 6, the response rate to the census has been 56.8% of households.
“It is important to note that with the COVID-19 and the challenges of making sure people, both the public and our employees, are safe, that we have adjustments in our schedule in order to accommodate what’s going on across the nation,” Sanders said.
Sanders said the Census Bureau has, during the last two years, worked with officials at the municipal and county levels to encourage people to respond to the census.
“We think that that work that was done over the past two years will help us to get a complete and accurate count, even in the midst of what we are experiencing and that is not being able to deploy our staff to the field,” Sanders said. “In addition to that, making certain that we are using the virtual platforms that we have to continue to move the message.”
In light of the pandemic, the Census Bureau has scaled back it’s face-to-face interactions in favor of virtual meetings, several of which are planned by the municipal and county partners.
“We feel, with the partners that we’ve engaged with, the fact that we educated them, the fact that we are now trying to do more motivation virtually, that we will get a complete count,” Sanders said.
Sanders said the Census Bureau, as of May 6, delivered questionnaires to households that do not have a mailable address, such as some residences on a rural route.
“In light of the situation across the county, the bureau is continuing to retool and move up operations that are necessary to get a complete count,” Sanders said.
Sanders said, due to the ongoing pandemic, the Census Bureau has adjusted the census schedule to protect the health and safety of census employees and the American public.
The Census Bureau website states census takers will interview homes that have not responded to the census from May 27 to Aug. 14.
Sanders said the census will start nonresponse follow-up Aug. 11.
Another change with the census is how Group Quarters enumeration, used to count groups such as students living on campus at the University of Central Missouri or airmen in barracks at Whiteman Air Force Base, will be counted.
“In those facilities, they also have the ability for the administrator at a university … can provide the information for the university for students who are living in those facilities,” Sanders said.
Sanders said that because more people engaged with what is going on with the pandemic, it affords the Census Bureau the opportunity to reach more people about the importance of the census.
“The census is an opportunity for your voice to be heard and that voice, over the next 10 years, will inform decisions that are made for over $675 billion dollars of funding that can be used to decide where there is going to be a need for a library, where the is going to be need for a head-start program for our children, where there may be a need for more emergency services (and) hospitals,” Sanders said.
Sanders said the data collected in the census is also used in apportionment and redistricting.
This is the first census to offer a questionnaire online and on the phone, as well as the traditional paper questionnaire.
For more information about the census, visit 2020census.gov.