The U.S. Census Bureau announced that it would delay its decennial count by at least two weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a conference call Friday, Tim Olsen, the associated director for field operations at the Census Bureau, noted that the original end date for the 2020 census was in July. However, because of the pandemic and resulting delays, the deadline now extends to the middle of August.
Al Fontenot, the Census Bureau’s associated director for decennial programs, added that 18.6 million households have already answered questionnaires, many of them doing so online. Fontenot said the bureau’s website went live a week ago, and residents began receiving notices to participate either online or by mail.
Fontenot did lament the unforeseeable outbreak of the coronavirus.
“Of all of our worst nightmares of things that could have gone wrong with the census, we did not anticipate this set of actions,” Fontenot said. “But our staff has been extremely resilient about looking for solutions.”
During the call, bureau officials noted that field operations had been suspended because of measures taken to protect workers and the public during the pandemic.
The bureau has received over 2.8 million job applicants for temporary positions to help with the count. More than 600,000 applicants had accepted job offers, and officials said they’re seeking to hire at least another 500,000 people.
The census count determines how much money a community gets from the estimated $675 billion in federal funds distributed locally for the programs that protect the health and overall well-being of citizens.
The results of the census directly determine the amount of funding communities will receive for the next ten years for essential services to senior citizens, public education, heating assistance, road improvements, public transportation, police and fire departments, community block grants, and other services.
For every person who is not counted, the municipality must cover the cost of these essential programs without the benefit of federal dollars.
To respond to the census, go to www.2020Census.gov.