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Billions in federal funding on the line in upcoming census

Field operations pushed back until April 1 due to coronavirus concerns

Series: Coronavirus | Story 6

Last updated 3/25/2020 at 4:24pm

Christopher Kim

Recruiters from the Census Bureau offered information on census jobs at the Mill Creek Library earlier this year.

Census field operations have been suspended until April 1 to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the Census Bureau announced last week.

"During this pause in field operations, the Census Bureau will continue to evaluate all 2020 Census operations. Should any additional adjustments need to be made, the Census Bureau will communicate these changes broadly and promptly," the Bureau said in a press release.

People are urged to complete the census online – a new option that has garnered 11 million responses so far – so they can practice social distancing. Census takers plan to go door to door as early as late May.

More than $34 billion in federal funds went unused in 2010 when nearly a quarter of Washington State residents didn't respond to the 2010 Census, according to statistics from the United States Census Bureau.

Officials and workers for the Census who believe their communities can benefit from the federal funding distributions are hoping to avoid that loss this year by making the questionnaire more accessible and offering paid jobs for census takers.

"Every person not counted is a potential loss of $2,000 to $3,000 in federal funds per year for the next 10 years," Michael Kidd, a retired naval officer who has lived in Mill Creek for almost 14 years, said. He recently took a position with the Census Bureau as a recruiter.

Collecting accurate data serves as more than just a valuable statistics used for significant matters such as redistricting the boundaries of voting districts, reassigning of congressional seats to states, and the distribution of more than $675 billion in federal funds annually.

"It's everybody's civic responsibility to participate," Kidd said. "It's part of our constitution that our founding fathers set up to ensure that all the states are properly represented."

Here's how it will work: households will start receiving questionnaires for the census in the mail mid-March. For households that do not mail them back by May, the Census Bureau will send a census taker for a follow-up visit; however, this could be pushed back to allow for social distancing measures due to the spread of COVID-19.

The form can also be filled and submitted online, a new option that was not available a decade ago.


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