July 11, 2020 — Under previously normal circumstances, the U.S. Census would be a much higher profile undertaking than it has become in the post-COVID world. However, the 2020 Census is fully underway and changes in the manner in which the Census is being conducted have led to unexpected response results so far in the process.
“The Census Bureau would like to extend our congratulations to the people of Oregon for their high response rate,” said Julie Lam, regional director of the Los Angeles Regional Census Office of the U.S. Census Bureau. “Your response matters and will help your community get the accurate count it needs to secure federal funding for critical public services and political representation.”
The reasons for the higher-than-anticipated household responses are in some part due to the pandemic’s restrictions, in addition to the emphasis of multiple online platforms for respondents to utilize when answering Census questionnaires.
Misty Slater, Census Media Specialist for Oregon, Nevada and Idaho, wants all residents that have not responded up to this point to know that there is still plenty of time to fill in the questionnaire online — preempting an onsite visit by Census workers later this summer.
“We are thrilled that we have surpassed our initial goal of 60.5 percent of households that have self-responded to the census. Currently, our national response rate is at 62.0 percent, which is 91,600,000 households that self-responded to the 2020 Census. However, our job is not yet complete. We are still pushing to have as many households as possible respond online, by phone or by mail. When households promptly respond on their own, we can get the most accurate count of their household,” Slater said.
According to Slater, Florence’s current self-response rate is 62.1 percent. In 2010, that self-response rate was 59.2 percent.
“Great news as Florence surpassed its 2010 rate,” she said.
Lane County’s current self-response rate is 66.8 percent.
Those who haven’t responded yet can still do so online, by phone or mail until Oct. 31.
The taking of the Census is mandated in Article 1, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution, and the data gathered every 10 years is used to apportion federal funding, which is allocated on population information gathered during that census cycle.
The data is perhaps just as importantly used to determine the number of members a given state has in the House of Representatives.
“Census results shape the future of communities, as census data informs how billions of dollars in federal funds are distributed for health clinics, school lunch programs, disaster recovery initiatives and other critical programs and services for the next 10 years,” Slater said.
One of the areas that Census officials are concerned with is the need for information on a second home owned by respondents.
“It’s required that homeowners complete a separate Census form for every house they own, including seasonal residences,” Slater said. “If homeowners have been staying in their seasonal homes during the COVID crisis, they still need to complete a Census form for their primary residence. People should count themselves at the residence where they live and sleep most of the time under normal conditions.”
In addition, participation in the Census is not voluntary; it is required.
According to United States Code, Title 13, Chapter 7 Sub-Chapter II, if someone is over 18 and refuses to answer all or part of the census, they can be fined up to $100. If they give false answers, they are subject to a fine of up to $500.
Anyone unsure of how to obtain a census questionnaire can go to 2020census.gov and find comprehensive instructions. Those who have not received a paper questionnaire and do not have internet access may also respond to the 2020 Census by calling 844-330-2020.