The COVID-19 outbreak is impacting every aspect of daily life, including how the U.S. Census Bureau is conducting the decennial 2020 Census. But despite the challenges, Arlington is over 65% counted – with more than 76,000 households out of a total of 115,000 having responded to the Census online, by phone or via mail.
That leaves about 40,000 households to go, and Arlington’s Complete Count Committee is intensifying its efforts to ensure that everyone in Arlington is counted.
“We know that folks have some Census fatigue alongside their quarantine fatigue,” said County Board Member Katie Cristol. “The coronavirus has not only made it harder to get a complete count, but it’s also made it more meaningful to get a complete count. Federal dollars allocated on the basis of the Census support critical resources like hospitals and emergency response – the very type of services we are relying upon in our community right now.”
Census Partners Can Help
Arlington is depending on its network of community partners to help get the word out about the Census to the remaining households, and recently held a virtual chat on the impact of COVID-19 on the 2020 Census where participants explored the challenges and brainstormed solutions.
“Prior to COVID-19, we had so many outreach events planned. Now that our partners have gone to virtual meetings, we encourage them to incorporate a Census message into their online gatherings,” said Arlington Complete Count Committee Co-Chair Wanda Pierce, who hosted the chat along with Co-Chair Elisa Ortiz. “So much of the Census is about funding important services in our community” such as those needed during this pandemic.
“Currently, households have several social-distance options to take the Census: it’s still online and available over the phone, and the Census Bureau is sending questionnaires by mail to those households that have not yet responded,” said Kevin R. McGowan, Assistant Regional Census Manager, Philadelphia Regional Census Center. Households that have not responded by early August can expect a visit from a Census taker (enumerator) between August and October 2020. The enumerators will use handheld devices to collect the data and will not start collecting responses before August 11, 2020. However, their timeline could be adjusted as needed to comply with any stay-at-home or other public health orders.
Reaching Hard-to-Count Communities
This year, nearly everyone is part of the hard-to-count community, ranging from people who are used to returning a form, to those who are non-English speakers. Messages reminding residents to take the Census – or if they have already taken it, to encourage others to take it – are being disseminated through schools, faith communities, and other organizations. The Census can be filled out in 13 different languages, and there are 59 language guides on line. Currently Arlington has over 240 partners who have been helping with Census outreach – and more are welcome! You or your organization can join as a partner or individual and help us spread the word.
“It’s harder not to have face-to-face interaction but people are using social networks to spread the word,” Pierce said. “If you haven’t personally taken the Census yet, it only takes 10 minutes on line. Please make sure your neighbors, your friends and your relatives are all being counted too so that Arlington gets our fair share.”
The U.S. Census counts every resident in the nation, including right here in Arlington County. As mandated by the U.S. Constitution, America gets just one chance each decade to count its population. The collected data help to determine things like the number of seats Virginia has in the House of Representatives, and how to distribute federal funds to local communities like ours.