Pivoting Census work during COVID-19

Before April 1, the 2020 Census was already challenged. The nationwide effort faced budget cuts, wariness among some populations, and the first-ever opportunity to complete the census form online.

Then, the COVID-19 crisis arrived.

Stay-at-home orders across Texas and the U.S. halted all in-person Census work and hindered plans to aggressively target ‘hard-to-count areas’ for outreach. Census Day events were canceled. Other “get-out-the-count” activities moved online.

This new challenge prompted extraordinary measures by the Census Bureau.  Census leaders extended the deadline for home visits by Census workers to October 31. They also moved the deadline for the final Census report to the President from December 31 to April 30, 2021. You can find a complete schedule of these changes here.

During these changes, the Census bureau is soliciting the help of ‘trusted community voices’ —  churches, community organizations, and nonprofits — to reach out to their constituencies and assist them in completing the Census. Although not official Census representatives, these groups are being asked to contact their members and encourage them to fill out the Census.

If individuals don’t feel comfortable filling out the Census online because of language or other issues, they can call the Census Bureau to walk them through the form over the phone or a  trusted community voice can assist them in filling it out online, as long as they make it clear they do not represent the Census. This represents a great opportunity for Episcopal congregations that have ministries with hard-to-count populations, communities, and Title 1 schools. Those relationships of trust make it possible to assist persons with the Census.

Even with the extensions, there is still great urgency. As of June 1, 60.5% of all Americans have responded to the Census form. However, the self-response rate in Texas remains below the national average at 55%.  Both figures lag behind the pace for the 2010 Census. The further we get beyond April 1st, the harder it will be to find and count people. This is why the Census needs your help to get out the count.

Several Episcopal churches have participated in innovative strategies to reach their community by putting fliers in food baskets, delivering fliers to apartment complexes and grocery stores in different languages, offering computers for people to fill out the Census, holding Census phone/text banks and much more.

It’s not too late for your congregation to be involved. We need to keep pressing forward until everyone is counted!

For more information on the Census and ways to meaningfully connect to this effort, contact Willie Bennett.