Health Blog

The 2020 Census and COVID-19

The first census in the United States took place in 1790 by foot or on horseback, and this year’s 2020 Census is the 23rd in our nation’s history but the first to occur during a pandemic. The U.S. Constitution requires that every person living in the United States be counted every 10 years. The information gathered from the Census is used to draw congressional and state legislative districts, school districts, and voting precincts. It also helps determine the distribution of federal dollars and planning for federal, tribal, state, and local governments.

Getting an accurate count of how many people live in a country is no easy task, which is why for the first time, you can choose to complete the census online, by phone, or by mail. In response to the spread of COVID-19 U.S. Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham said, “The public is strongly encouraged to respond to the 2020 Census online using a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet, and can also respond by phone or mail.” Dillingham also went on YouTube to urge a full count of the country “in unprecedented times.”

Those who have not yet responded to the 2020 Census can do so here even without mailed instructions.

What Questions Does My Household Have to Answer?

  • Name
  • Relationship to Person 1 (Person 1 is the individual filling out the form)
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Date of birth
  • Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin
  • Race

Person 1, the individual filling out the form, is also asked a few additional questions such as whether the home is owned or rented and some clarifying questions about how many people should be counted at that address:

  • “How many people were living or staying in this house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2020?”
  • “Were there any additional people staying here on April 1, 2020 that you did not include in Question 1?”
  • “Does this person usually live or stay somewhere else?”

Key Dates:

Starting in March households received invitations to participate in the 2020 Census, however due to COVID-19 some key deadlines have changed. On April 13, the Census Bureau announced the deadline for people to complete the 2020 Census has been moved to October 31, 2020, more than two months later than its previous date of August 15. The Census Bureau will not resume its door-to-door visits for people who have not completed the survey until June 1, 2020.

Key Things to Know:

  • Participation is safe, secure, private, and required by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to prohibit the Census Bureau from sharing any personal information with any other federal agency, including law enforcement, immigration enforcement, IRS, and state agencies.
  • There is NOT a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
  • Law enforcement officials will never come to your door asking for your questionnaire. Only Census Bureau workers, who are not law enforcement officials, will come knocking to help you complete the questionnaire.
  • Some residents won’t receive a census questionnaire in the mail. They will receive a postcard with a web address and telephone number on it. Residents will be asked to complete their household questionnaire online, via a mobile device, or over the telephone.

The Census Bureau wants to assure people that their information is confidential. There are federal laws and statistical safeguards in place so that when statistics are released no identifying information is shared with the public or government agencies. Many immigrants, regardless of documentation status, remain skeptical because of the recent push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.

Cherry Health encourages every household to complete the 2020 Census. As stated above, an accurate count is important when it comes to decisions on governmental spending. This is important to organizations like Cherry Health, which receives federal funding, as well school districts, and voting precincts. Knowing how many people live in each community allows businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies to understand which areas have a growing demand for services and support.

For more information about the census awareness efforts in Michigan, click here.

For interesting facts about how the 2020 and 1790 Census counts compare, click here.

Heather Kehoe, Communications Specialist