Census Bureau Briefs Congress on Efforts to Address Impact of Coronavirus on 2020 Census

Mar 13, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Mar. 13, 2020)—At the request of the Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, Rep. José E. Serrano, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Rep. David E. Price, the Census Bureau provided a briefing today on its efforts to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on the 2020 Census. 

“A complete and accurate 2020 Census is essential to all of our communities, and the Census Bureau reports that it is moving to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and encourage everyone to fill out their Census form,” said Chairwoman Maloney.  “The Oversight Committee has been monitoring this situation extremely closely, and we will continue to work to ensure that the Census Bureau takes all necessary steps and has the resources it needs to keep Census workers safe and ensure that every person in the United States gets counted.”

Census Bureau staff provided the following information at the briefing:

  • Self-Response is Key.  The Census Bureau is urging Americans to respond to the Census whenever possible using the online, phone, or mail self-response options.  This will reduce the need for Census workers to knock on doors.  Households who respond online will not receive an in-person visit to their homes by Census workers.
  • Timeframe Could Be Extended, if Needed.  Under the current schedule, the Bureau reports that it will collect self-responses and in-person responses through July 31, 2020.  Staff indicated that this timeframe could be extended if necessary to ensure every household gets counted.  The Bureau plans to monitor response rates before making a decision on a possible extension.  The Bureau has more than $2 billion in reserve funding that can be deployed if needed.
  • Group Quarters Remain a Challenge.  It is imperative that the Bureau address the challenges to counting people living in group quarters, such as nursing homes, homeless shelters, and colleges.  Bureau staff said they are seeking to increase the use of online and paper response options, rather than in-person counts.  Bureau staff stated that a decision will be announced in approximately one week on the possible extension of the count of homeless population, currently scheduled for March 30 through April 1. 
  • Counting College Students.  There is significant concern about whether students will be accurately counted following the closure of many colleges and universities.  Bureau staff explained that students who have left town due to school closures should still be counted at their college or university residences.  The Bureau is preparing guidance on how schools can help, including by providing student information directly to the Bureau.
  • Protecting Census Workers.  The Bureau needs to protect Census workers and prepare for a possible drop-off in hiring due to coronavirus fears.  The Bureau reports that it is taking several steps, including shifting training online, providing guidance and safety equipment, and working with federal, state, and local health officials.  The Bureau staff reported that they have not yet seen a significant drop in staffing levels, but the Bureau is monitoring staffing rates closely. 
  • Partners are Essential.  In the coming days, the Bureau will be providing guidance to the public and hundreds of thousands of Census partners around the country to help promote a complete, accurate, and fair count. 

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Issues: 
116th Congress