April 01, 2020

Census Day – 2020 Census is underway amid big challenges

Census Day – 2020 Census is underway amid big challenges
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By Hailey Leek

Complete the Census By Phone 1 pdfApril 1 is Census Day, the point in time when the Census Bureau is capturing what our population looks like in 2020. Census organizers are urging everyone living in the United States to complete the 2020 Census questionnaire today, if they haven’t done so already. For the first time in history, the census may be completed online or by phone, in addition to the traditional method of returning the paper questionnaire some households received in the mail.

The 2020 Census kicked off during a pandemic and an earthquake. As of today, only 42.6 percent of Salt Lake City residents have completed the census. The majority of these responses were done online. Even under the best of circumstances, census participation for historically marginalized communities has been low.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, community organizers had planned to be making the transition from online to offline outreach, and be meeting people where they’re at – grocery stores, public libraries, houses of worship, picking their kids up from school or neighborhood gatherings – to help them fill out the census.

Unfortunately the type of in-person outreach that would encourage and support census participation for low-income households, immigrants, seniors and people experiencing homelessness has either been postponed or canceled.

The Census Bureau, along with Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County and other organizations have had to adjust their outreach efforts to follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities. As it stands, the safest way for people to respond to the 2020 census is either online, by phone or by mail.

These response options work for the majority of Salt Lake City residents. However, households who don’t speak English, or who have limited access to or knowledge of the internet or digital devices, have the potential of being excluded from the census. These households are further excluded from important public health updates, teleworking and online classrooms.

Since census data is used to determine how much funding our state receives from the federal government, the digital divide has the potential of costing Salt Lake City millions of dollars. Every community member not counted in the 2020 Census reflects a loss of $1,860 per person or $18,600 over the next 10 years. This funding is spent on our schools and health care, and in the future, could potentially enhance digital literacy and access.

An inclusive and accurate Census is even more important in the wake of COVID-19. Data collected from the census supports emergency response and preparedness by helping us understand our growing and aging population, and it can increase funding and access to health clinics.

Therefore, please complete the 2020 Census today! Ensure that your community is supported and has access to critical resources over the next decade. The challenges that are currently affecting the 2020 Census can be overcome through community support. Encourage family, friends and your neighborhood to either complete the census online at my2020census.gov, by mail, or by phone. For phone numbers and available languages visit 2020census.gov.

Salt Lake City’s census participation rate in 2010 was 68.9 percent , which means over a quarter of our city’s population didn’t participate. Let’s beat the odds and increase our participation rates from 2010. Track your community response rates here.

Reminders:

  • There is NO citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
  • If you’re able to complete the census online but don’t have your ID number, you can still participate! Go to gov, select the link under the login button that says, “If you do not have a Census ID, click here.”
  • Only one person from each household needs to fill out the census questionnaire, but should count every person living or staying in their household on April 1st, including babies and non-relatives.
  • Encourage participation now through August 14, 2020, when the census officially closes.

Stay safe and please get out the count.

For more information visit slc.gov/census or 2020census.gov.

Hailey Leek is the Census Coordinator for the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office.