(March 20, 2020) Even with the threat of COVID-19, the U.S. Census still carries on with the decennial population count. The census went online last Thursday, March 12. According to Kelly Henry, Worcester County technical services manager and Complete Count Committee coordinator, the U.S. Census Bureau will mail invitations to fill out the census from March 12-20.
“With those invitations, you’ll get an identifier number that when you go to do it online, you would put in that identifying number,” Henry said. “However, if you want to fill it out before you get your card, then there may be a series of additional questions that it will ask you online to verify your address.”
People experiencing homelessness will have to fill out the census without an identifying number. The same procedure applies to those who have a post office box. Those addresses will receive a post card invitation from the county, Henry said.
The bureau will send invitations to complete the census March 16-24 and then another one March 26-April 3. It will mail paper questionnaires April 8-16. The deadline to fill out the census is July 31.
“Due to poor internet service throughout the county, there’s going to be areas that will get the paper survey sooner than others,” Henry said. “If you want to do it on paper, you’re going to have to wait for it to come in the mail.”
Residents also may call to complete the census over the phone.
Henry cautioned against mixing up the census survey and the American Communities survey. She said the U.S. Census Bureau conducts both surveys, but they are separate.
“I don’t want people to think that if they fill out one, that it serves as both, because it does not,” Henry said. “They’ve got to fill out both and not everybody gets the American Communities Survey, whereas everybody will get the regular 2020 census survey.”
She also warned against impersonators who claim to be with the U.S. Census Bureau. Henry said all census employees will have a badge that says, “US. Census Bureau.”
Residents can ask for that person’s name and then go to 2020census.gov to verify that they work for the bureau. Employees also cannot charge money for helping to fill out surveys.
“I can’t do your census,” Henry said. “I can help you get to the website. I can help you navigate the keyboard, but I cannot put in your information.”
She added that the census does not ask for social security or banking numbers. If anyone questions the validity of a census worker, they should call the census bureau.
Henry emphasized that the census is safe to take.
“None of the information can be shared with any other law enforcement or ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] or any other government agency,” Henry said. “It’s important because it determines how $675 billion of funding is distributed. Those monies are used for schools, health care, roads, businesses — that statistical data.”
For every person not counted, state and local jurisdictions lose $18,250 in federal funds over the next 10 years. Worcester County had the lowest response out of all Maryland counties for the 2010 Census.
In response to the coronavirus outbreak and Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order to ban gatherings of 50 people or more, the strategy for the census has shifted. Many community events that census representatives planned to attend have been cancelled or postponed, according to John Watson, census coordinator for the Eastern Shore.
“Social media, digital advertising, small groups or one-on-one communication may have to play a much larger role than was first thought and that might be a short-term change or a longer one, depending how the situation develops,” Watson said in the email to local census officials.
He added that it is easier and safer than ever to complete the census online.
“It is still critically important more than ever to complete your form and count every member living in your household so that the federal government knows how to properly allocate its resources,” Watson said.
Henry said that Worcester’s committee is beginning to plan for alternative outreach efforts.
The five county libraries, nine health department locations and the five senior centers that were to be available for people in need of census assistance are no longer open because of coronavirus safety measures. The libraries plan to be closed until March 30, while the senior centers could reopen today (Friday).
The department of human services in Snow Hill will still be open for assistance with the census, but will screen for coronavirus.
Call 844-330-2020 to complete the census over the phone. The phone line is open every day from 7-2 a.m. Eastern Time. Visit 2020census.gov for more information.