Courtesy of
Courtesy of

The U.S. Census Bureau, in coordination with federal, state and local health officials, will begin a phased restart of some 2020 census field operations in select geographic areas this week.

Updates on the operations resuming by location are available at This webpage will be updated weekly as 2020 census operations resume across the U.S.

The health and safety of Census Bureau staff and the public remain of the utmost importance. Returning staff will receive safety training to observe social distancing protocols in the COVID-19 environment. For their safety and the safety of the public, the Census Bureau has ordered Personal Protective Equipment for all field staff, including those who work in a field office. These materials will be secured and provided to staff prior to restarting operations.

As part of the phased restart of operations, the Census Bureau will resume dropping off 2020 census invitation packets at front doors of households in areas where the majority of households do not receive mail at their home. This operation is also known as Update Leave. About 5 percent of households are counted in the Update Leave operation, where census workers will confirm or update a household’s physical location address and then leave a census questionnaire packet.

The Census Bureau began delivering census materials to these households on March 15. However, this operation was suspended on March 18 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Update Leave operation does not require interaction between households and a Census Bureau employee and follows the most current federal health and safety guidelines. In states that have resumed the Update Leave operation, protocol revisions include fingerprinting for new hires to keep applicants moving through the hiring process. Area Census Office (ACO) staff will begin returning to the office as necessary to support the Update Leave operation, as well.

Households that receive 2020 census invitation packets are strongly encouraged to respond promptly to the 2020 census using the census ID included in the questionnaire packet. People can respond online, by phone or by completing and returning the paper form by mail. Responding with the census ID or by completing and returning the paper questionnaire helps ensure the best count of their community.

Being Counted Matters and It’s Easier Than You May Believe

A series of YouTube public service announcements [PSA] currently airing which features young children sharing messages like, “The census is coming,” “Count me,” or “Count us.”

Their meaning, one might say, remains “elementary.” In other words, far too often, children are not counted. In fact, nationwide, the last census missed nearly 2 million children under age five – an oversight or mistake that especially hurts children for the next 10 years.

The census informs funding decisions for roads and hospitals. But it also provides things that children (or their parents and caregivers) need: libraries, schools, childcare programs and more. That’s why it’s imperative that you count everyone in your home, including all children, in the 2020 census.

So, what do you need to know?

The census is easy, safe, confidential (all responses are protected by federal law) and important and can be completed at

While the self-response period began March 12, households can still respond three ways: online, by phone or by mail.

While only English or Spanish are available in paper form, there are 12 other languages supported for phone or mail options.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 has delayed many census-related, in-person outreach activities. In fact, many organizations have already switched to digital outreach strategies including livestreams and twitter chats. Still, the challenge remains reaching many of the hardest to count [HTC] populations who will inevitably be missed by digitally-based strategies. Many citizens took advantage of online opportunities to increase their knowledge on the nuts and bolts of the 2020 census a few days ago during Digital Weekend (May 1-3).

Why is Your Participation in the Census Important?

The census is more than just a head count as its results will affect every U.S. state and territory for the next 10 years. Besides the count being used to appropriately allocate federal funds which annually support vital programs and services which include Medicaid, Head Start, schools, hospitals and roads, the census also helps to determine the number of seats in the House of Representatives and a state’s number of votes in the Electoral College and the state’s voting district boundaries.

Only basic information is asked on the census about your household and pertains to each household member: name, age/date of birth, gender, racial/ethnic background and relationship to the head of the household. You will also be asked if the household is one in which residents own or rent their current living space.

The census will never ask for: Social Security numbers, money or donations, bank/credit information or anything on behalf of a political party.

But there are plenty of attempts to glean information that the federal government deems to be confidential and which is therefore illegal to pursue and might be used to employ scams, so beware. If you suspect any attempts at scams, you should call the Census Bureau, 800-923-8282.

As mentioned early, there are over a dozen languages in which people can respond to the census, either online or by phone including: English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Japanese.

As for who counts and who should be counted, the rule of thumb is to count people where they live or reside most of the time. If you find it difficult to follow this rule or understand its nuances, individuals should be counted where they were living on April 1, 2020.

For those who are currently enrolled and attending college, they should be counted at their school. Those who, while currently at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were previously residing on campus, their university is responsible for counting those students. For those who were living off-campus, they will need to submit their own response to the census.

While many operations have either been extended or postponed due to stay-at-home orders which may still be in place, field offices are tentatively slated to be reactivated June 1, 2020 with non-response outreach to follow beginning Aug. 11, 2020.

What About Hard to Count (HTC) Populations?

Even in the best of times and under normal conditions, it remains a real challenge to complete HTC populations throughout the U.S. A hard-to-count population refers to areas where a low percentage of households returned their 2020 census forms. Some populations are harder to count than others: children under five, people of color (African American, Latinx, Asian American), non-English speakers, immigrants and renters.

Additionally, there are identified barriers that often prevent a complete count in households: the household speaks a language other than English; individuals or families live in a “complex household;” the address was not listed, i.e., multi-unit buildings; and individuals were not included on their household form.

As of April 30, the District’s self-response rate (51.7 percent) ranked below the national response rate (55.6 percent). Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan stood at the top, nationally, with self-response rates of 66.2, 63.5, 63.4, 62.7 and 62.3, respectively.

Both Virginia and Maryland report far greater self-response rates than their neighbors in the District. In the Commonwealth, Poquoson County, Virginia leads all counties at 72.7 percent with Vienna standing at #1 among all cities at 76.7 percent.

As for Maryland, Carroll County leads the way at 70.8 percent with University Park leading all cities at 84 percent.

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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