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Posted on: March 18, 2020

Census 2020 & COVID-19

The Census Bureau continues to carefully monitor the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities. They are adjusting some operations as outlined below with two key principles in mind: protecting the health and safety of staff and the public and fulfilling statutory requirement to deliver the 2020 Census counts to the President on schedule.

As of today, over 5 million have responded online to the 2020 Census. Currently, the planned completion date for data collection for the 2020 Census is July 31, 2020, but that date can and will be adjusted if necessary as the situation dictates in order to achieve a complete and accurate count.

It has never been easier to respond on your own, whether online, over the phone or by mail—all without having to meet a census taker.

Adjusting operations to make sure college students are counted

College students living in on-campus housing are counted through their university as part of the Group Quarters operation, which counts all students living in university-owned housing. In addition to college dormitories, the Group Quarters operation also includes places like nursing homes, group homes, halfway houses and prisons.

During recent 2020 Census Group Quarters Advance Contact operation the U.S. Census Bureau contacted administrators of college/university student housing to get their input on the enumeration methods that will allow students to participate in the 2020 Census.

The majority, about 47%, chose the eResponse methodology and about seven percent chose paper listings, both of which provide the Census Bureau directory information (electronically or via paper records) about each student. About 35%, however, chose drop-off/pick-up, which allows students to self-respond using an Individual Census Questionnaire (or ICQ). The Census Bureau is contacting those schools to ask whether they would like to change that preference in light of the emerging situation.

In general, students in colleges and universities temporarily closed due to COVID-19 will still be counted as part of this process. Even if they are home on census day, April 1, they should be counted according to the residence criteria that states they should be counted where they live and sleep most of the time.

Per the Census Bureau’s residence criteria, students living away from home at school should be counted at school in most cases, even if they are temporarily elsewhere due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working with group quarters administrators to ensure residents are counted

The 2020 Census is designed to offer multiple ways to respond. Administrators of group housing are encouraged administrators to choose a way to count their residents that requires less in-person contact.

For the Group Quarters operation, which counts people in nursing homes, college dorms, prisons and other institutional living facilities, there are a myriad of ways to respond, such as via eResponse, paper listing or self-enumeration by the facility.

The Census Bureau is contacting all group quarters administrators that have requested an in-person visit and asking them to consider an eResponse or offering to drop off and later pick up paper forms to minimize in-person contact with our census staff.

Working with service providers to determine the best way forward

They are working with service providers at emergency and transitional shelters, soup kitchens and regularly scheduled mobile food vans to adapt plans to count the populations they serve.

The plan was to interview each person served a meal or staying at the facility at a date and time the service providers choose between March 30 and April 1.

The Census Bureau is now contacting the service providers to determine whether they will be open between March 30 and April 1 and whether they would be able to provide a paper listing of census response data for each person served or staying at the facility instead.

The Census Bureau is also making changes to its paid media campaign, earned media efforts and partnership outreach efforts to adapt to changing conditions while continuing to promote self-response. The key message right now for anyone with questions about how COVID-19 will affect the 2020 Census: It has never been easier to respond on your own, whether online, over the phone or by mail—all without having to meet a census taker.

The Census Bureau will continue to monitor the situation, take appropriate steps in consultation with public health authorities and provide ongoing updates. 

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