•Reaching minority populations in 2020 is even harder during the pandemic, despite internet options. 

In the midst of coronavirus, the U.S. Census is looking for alternative ways to engage the community, connecting with food banks and health care centers to pass out flyers and swag to help get people to respond to the decennial Census.

However workers are finding it’s hard to get people who are struggling with social distancing measures and making ends meet to care about the census. As of May 3, 56.6% of households in the United States have responded to the census. Both Kansas and Missouri are slightly ahead of the country’s average with a 61.5% and 57.6% response rate, respectively. However, one of the low spots is Wyandotte County, with a population that is 24.5% Black; it has a response rate of just 51.1%.

Black and Hispanic communities are considered hard to count, and are also the communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But as the pandemic puts the Census count on hold for months while states wait to come out of lockdown, advocates warn that their outreach efforts are coming up short — increasing the odds that the communities that need federal help the most won’t get their fair share in the coming decade.

“It’s more important than ever to understand where these communities are and who lives in these communities and let them know that if we are susceptible to something like COVID, we need to understand where these communities are so that we can help these communities through federal interventions,” like health care programs for low-income communities that receive funds based on Census data, said John Thompson, a career Census Bureau employee who became its director under President Barack Obama.

Responding to the risk of an undercount because of the pandemic, the Census Bureau has shifted its timetable to complete this year’s count, extending the response deadline from the end of July to the end of October. The agency halted field operations in mid-March and won’t restart until June 1. Meanwhile, knocking on doors to survey those who haven’t responded by mail or phone or online won’t begin until mid-August.

It’s also asking Congress to delay the deadline for state population counts used in congressional apportionment from the end of the year to next April and the deadline for the data used for state redistricting from next March to next July, said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the Oversight and Reform Committee. And to explain why responses are important even during a pandemic, the agency plans to target television ads at the local level, Thompson said.

There’s still time to fill out your Census at 2020Census.gov.

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