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Census 2020 by Ruth Kistler

Have you filled out your census questionnaire? An accurate count of U.S. residents is needed to determine representation in the House of Representatives. There is a good chance Oregon will gain a sixth Congressional district based on population gains since the last census. The census data is also used in drawing state legislative districts and in allocating billions of dollars in federal funding for education, healthcare, housing, and roads.

At our February 20 meeting, Dr. Michelle Maher told us that a 12-digit census identification code and an invitation to fill out the on-line census questionnaire would be mailed to households that receive mail at their residence. Others, such as those who receive mail at a post office box, will not receive a notice in the mail, but should visit the website, provide their residence address, and fill out the questionnaire. The confidentiality of personal information collected is protected by law. Dr. Maher also explained that what used to be the “long form,” now called the American Community Survey, is done on a rolling basis rather than as part of the decennial census as in the past.

The accuracy of the census ultimately depends on hundreds of thousands of trained census-takers called enumerators. Their job is to track down millions of residents who fail to fill out questionnaires or are unable to receive them by mail. In mid-March, the Covid-19 pandemic forced the Census Bureau to temporarily suspend training and outreach. The suspension immediately impacted the scheduled count of the nation’s homeless, which was originally scheduled for March 30, 31, and April 1, and the training enumerators. Plans have been made to reactivate field offices beginning June 1, 2020. At that time in-person activities, including all interaction with the public, will incorporate the most current guidance to promote health and safety of staff and public. This will include recommended personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing practices.

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