Census 2020: Everything You Need to Know About the Population Count

Nicole Rojas
Apr 3, 2020 - 10:56

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The once-in-a-decade population count is officially underway. The U.S. Census Bureau was forced to make several operational and deadline changes to adjust to the reality that the 2020 census is taking place during a worldwide pandemic. 

Many Americans may have forgotten that the census count was happening this year and with good cause. The novel coronavirus, better known as COVID-19, has dominated headlines as the infection and death rate continues to rise at an unprecedented rate. On April 2, the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 surpassed 1 million worldwide and more than 242,000 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University

As we deal with this deadly virus, it is critically important that we don’t forget to complete the census. The U.S. Constitution demands that the apportionment of representatives among the states be done every 10 years. This means that the 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be divided among the 50 states based on state population data collected during the census. 

It is of the utmost importance that every individual is counted so they are properly represented in the House of Representatives. The data collected by the census will also affect how much federal funds, grants and support each state receives. 

The Census Bureau is required to deliver redistricting counts to states so legislative districts can be redrawn based on population changes by April 1, 2021. 

Important Census Dates

The growing pandemic has affected operations to conduct the population count. In response, the Census Bureau has adjusted Census 2020 operations, including extending several vital deadlines. 

  • April 1: Known as Census Day, April 1 is the day used to determine who is counted and where in the Census. The Census Bureau asks that you include everyone who usually lives and sleeps in your home as of that date.
  • April 13 to August 14: Beginning on April 13, Census Bureau staff will assist people in responding to the Census online at places including grocery stores and community centers. 
  • May 1: The first day of May will be the final day Census takers drop off invitations at the front doors of 5 million households to fill out the Census. The originally planned schedule was March 15 to April 17. It was delayed to begin on March 29. 
  • May 7 to August 14: On May 7, Census takers will begin following up with households that have not responded to the Census. 
  • May 14: Census takers are set to interview an estimated 2,000 households in remote parts of northern Maine and southeast Alaska following social distancing protocols. Those interviews were set to conclude on April 30 but will not end on May 14. 
  • August 14: The Census Bureau originally set the self-response phase deadline for July 31 but extended that deadline by two weeks due to the pandemic. 

Additional dates can be viewed on the Census Bureau’s website, here.

How to Complete the Census 

There are three ways to complete your Census 2020 form: online, by phone or by mail. Most households should have received an invitation to respond to the 2020 Census between March 12 and March 20, according to the Census Bureau’s website. That invitation includes information about the population count, as well as a Census ID to complete the form online. Some households will also receive a paper questionnaire.

Individuals who choose to respond to the Census online are cautioned that the form must be completed in one sitting. Only one person per household should fill out the Census for everyone living in the home. 

The Census Bureau said that Americans living in American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands must complete the Census on paper by a Census taker. 

For anyone worried about submitting their information to the population count, the Census Bureau assures that responses are “safe, secure, and protected by federal law.” Under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, those answers can only be used to produce statistics and cannot be used against you. The personal information is kept confidential and cannot be given to law enforcement or used to determine your eligibility for government benefits. 

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About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a senior writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.

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