2020 Census is on track, despite setbacks from coronavirus

More than half of Snohomish County residents have been counted in the government survey.

EVERETT — The coronavirus is slowing the 2020 Census, but people are still getting counted.

With social distancing in effect across the country, the U.S. Census Bureau has delayed sending workers door-to-door or to public places like grocery stores to help people fill out the survey administered every 10 years. As of Tuesday, more than half of Snohomish County residents had answered the government questionnaire, according to Census Bureau data. Nationwide, 46% of people have participated.

“Despite the current situation, the nation’s response rate is on track,” said Al Fontenot, associate director of census programs, during a March news briefing. “The plan for the 2020 census is resilient and it is adaptive.”

The survey’s results provide an estimate for the size and makeup of the U.S. population. That data is taken into account when federal dollars are allocated for programs across the country and helps draw congressional districts and other boundaries. Questionnaires started popping up in people’s mailboxes on March 12. So far, Snohomish County has the sixth-highest response rate in the state (54%). Benton County, with 56% of residents already submitting surveys, leads all others.

During the last census, 70% of Snohomish County residents participated.

This year, the cities with the highest participation rates are Brier (69%), Woodway (62%), Mukilteo (62%) and Edmonds (61%).

Darrington had the lowest response rate, with 9%.

People can take the survey by mail, online at census2020.gov, or over the phone until Aug. 14.

The website offers the questionnaire in 13 languages and video tutorials in 59.

“It’s something everyone can do while practicing social distancing at home to make a difference today, tomorrow and the next 10 years,” Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said in a news release.

The Census Bureau is still hiring, too.

So far, nearly 3 million people have applied for temporary jobs with the federal agency. More than 600,000 people have accepted job offers.

The original goal was for 2.67 million employees, Tim Olson, associate director of field operations for the census, said during the briefing. But the pandemic has put hiring on hold for now. Workers are trained online with no in-person sessions.

“We are urging people to consider applying as we may need more temporary employees than previously planned for,” he said.

Officials are warning that scammers may impersonate census workers to get people’s financial information. A census worker will never ask for financial details, bank information or social security numbers, Olson said.

Census workers were to head to public spaces such as grocery stores and community centers to help people fill out the questionnaire starting March 30. Now, that could start Monday.

The vast majority of people fill out the survey on their own. For the rest, workers go door to door. That could start in late May.

In the coming days, 64 million households across the country will receive paper questionnaires.

Fontenot and Olson both said all dates are subject to change.

“Even though many things may seem uncertain at the moment, one thing isn’t — the 2020 census,” Fontenot said. “The current situation underscores the need for census data. Census results are used to inform planning and funding for hospitals, health clinics and emergency preparedness, even school lunch programs.”

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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