Census workers have returned to the field after a nearly 10-week halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Marna Davis, a spokesperson for the U.S. Census Bureau in San Joaquin County, said census invitations were mailed out in mid-March asking households to participate in the population count, which happens every 10 years and shapes federal funding for the next decade.
“Responding to the census is very important. Census numbers are used to determine how hundreds of billions of dollars of federal funding each year is allocated to communities for important things like schools, roads, emergency response, hospitals, social services, homeless services, senior services,” Davis said. “It is critical that every person is counted once and only once in the right place.”
Almost everyone in the U.S. gets mail delivered — more than 95% of homes, Davis said. On March 13, census takers began leaving paper questionnaire packets on the doorsteps of those few residents in the county who do not have a regular mailing address, who live in rural areas where the post office doesn’t deliver, or who use a post office box.
Three days in, the pandemic suspended their work. Then, last week, census takers wearing masks and gloves began again where they had left off.
Davis said the majority of households in Tracy and San Joaquin County get mail delivered, so they have already received invitations to respond to the census by mail, by phone, or online, which is a new option since the last decennial census.
“It only takes a few minutes,” Davis said. “It’s easy, safe and important. It’s only 10 questions and they are very simple.”
Questions cover the number of people living in the household, their ages and relationships to each other, their races, and the type of residence.
The census does not ask whether people are U.S. citizens.
“There is not a citizenship question on the 2020 census,” Davis said. “The census is a population count to determine how many people live in America and where they live.”
One person responds for each household. Once that person has answered the questions, the household has finished with the census. The sooner, the better, Davis said.
“If you respond to the 2020 census, then we don’t keep sending you reminders and a census taker will not have to come knock on your door come mid-August,” she said. “We ask that everyone please respond now.”
As of this Tuesday, 65.2% of households in Tracy had responded to the census. That’s better than the California average of 61.6% and the San Joaquin County average of 60.9%. The national average self-response rate is 60.5%.
Any households that got a census invitation in the mail but can’t find it, or never received one, can go online to answer the questions using their home address or their census identification number, which was printed on the invitation. The census questions can also be answered by phone at 844-330-2020, and people can call to get help in 13 different languages.
“It’s easy, safe and important. Please respond now. It’s important for your community,” Davis said. “Your answers are protected. We never share any responses with any other government agencies. Your answers are encrypted and protected. Your answers are private.”