Census and Coronavirus


U.S. Census Bureau

The spread of these ads are the result of a $500 million outreach campaign for public education on the efficiency and safety of taking the 2020 Census.

Emily Eslao, Photojournalist

Amidst all the confusion of quarantine, there is still a need to carry out the programmed functions. As scheduled, the 2020 Census arrived just as it did in 2010. and as it did another ten years prior. The census is a legal obligation listed under the U.S. Constitution, meant to account for the United States Population.


The census takes population counts and surveys across the country; with data collected from the census, the federal government allocates up to “$675 billion in federal funds annually” to various public services and communities (United States Census Bureau). This funding facilitates the improvement and maintenance of infrastructure, schools, health systems, and residence.


Censuses also hold significant political influence, determining the number of seats assigned in the House of Representatives.


The data collected from census is so vital to the country that the federal government enforces various means of ensuring citizen participation. First off, “refusal to answer… the census” results in a $100 fine, which was later “raised to as much as $5,000” (American Bar). In addition, the Census Bureau recruits “thousands of temporary workers” to go door to door and investigate households that do not complete the national surveys” (The Telegraph). 


With the late quarantine and health risks surrounding COVID-19, the 2020 Census has experienced “an extremely low response rate” (TC Palm). Social distancing has eliminated the possibility of field work, most significantly the door-to-door enforcement team. The U.S. Census Bureau altered its traditional methods, and for the first time ever, the census can be completed online.


Even in crisis, it is just as important to receive an accurate demographic of the country.  Associate Director with the Census, Albert Fontenot, states that “…our staff has been extremely resilient about looking for solutions in ways we can still be very effective to get the response from every person in the United States of America.”


As of today households have already received in the mail reminders and information on 2020’s surveying process, which will end in July. After Census Day on April 1st and throughout the month, the census will continue to be promoted in local communities as further reminders are sent out. Many reminders are in the form of an outreach campaign, “featuring more than 1,000 ads” that would reach “99% of all U.S. households” (United States Census Bureau). When asked if she knew about the 2020 Census, Karyss Park (9) responded, “Yes, [through] many annoying ads.”