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Global pandemic puts a damper on 2020 Census

  • Written by Madeline Coats

Field operations for the U.S. Census Bureau’s once-a-decade headcount have been suspended for two additional weeks to protect the health of citizens and minimize the spread of COVID-19.

The postponement is anticipated to last until April 15, further extending the process of counting college students, people experiencing homelessness and households yet to respond to the census. The goal of the census is to count every person living in the United States, regardless of age, race or citizenship status.

“Completing your census form is a great thing to do while we are all social distancing, and you can respond online, by phone or by mail,” said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert.

The U.S. has counted its population every decade since 1790. The 2020 Census is the first to offer options for internet and phone responses, in addition to the mail and in-person alternatives. 

The questionnaire asks about all the people living or sleeping in the household as of April 1, 2020. These surveys will also help to accurately measure the impact of the coronavirus, according to a news release from the bureau.

“We’re adapting or delaying some of our operations to protect the health and safety of our staff and the public, and make sure we get the same population counted another way,” the release said.

Households first began receiving official census information in the mail in the middle of March. Census takers are expected to visit households who have not yet responded in late May, although the future dates are unpredictable.

The census will determine congressional representation, inform hundreds of billions in federal funding every year, and provide data that will impact communities for the next decade. 

Based on 2010 census data, Washington state’s population grew 14.1% from 2000. With that growth, the state earned an additional seat in Congress. Survey results also determine the number of seats in the House of Representatives and redraw state legislative districts.

Northshore School District spans 60 square miles across three cities and two counties, according to a news release from the school district. The census results will show where communities need new schools, fire departments, clinics, roads, and more services for families, older adults and children.

The census is valuable to local businesses as they make decisions, such as where to open new stores, restaurants, factories and offices. In past years, business owners have used results to gather data on the communities they serve, including population trends and growth projections.

Results will also evaluate how billions of dollars in federal funding will flow into states and communities each year, as well as more than 100 programs across the country.

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