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2020 Census operations delayed due to COVID-19


Last updated 3/31/2020 at 11:54am

COVID-19 has caused significant delays for the various operations of the 2020 Census, and more delays are possible as the situation progresses.

“It looks like there’s going to be a really long operational pause, that’s the big effect in Montana,” said Joshua Manning a media specialist at the Dallas Regional Census Office.

He said the bureau has delayed their “update leave” service, in which census takers leave census packets at houses to be filled out by the residents. He said this service will begin April 14 instead of March 29 as previously announced.

A press release from the bureau said this service is especially important in Montana, given that nearly 35 percent of people in the state do not receive mail at traditional mailing addresses, which puts the state at risk of under-reporting its population.

Manning said anyone can respond to the census online, and that the primary focus of the bureau at large is encouraging people to self-report in this way.

“We are encouraging people to take it online,” he said, “I did it in two minutes, it’s ridiculously easy. But not everyone wants to do it online, some people are just waiting on that paper copy.”

Manning said he wants everyone to be able to respond to the census in the way that they want and that he and the bureau understand why many people prefer the paper form. However, he said online response will make things easier for respondents and the bureau.

In a fact sheet given to media, the Census Bureau detailed how various aspect of their operation have been delayed.

Self-response has been extended through August 14 for people replying online. Census staff, who would normally be stationed at local community centers and grocery stores to help people respond online, will not begin operations until April 13. Census takers will not begin in-person follow-up interviews with people who haven’t yet respond until May 28.

However, some homes around colleges and universities might see interviewers show up as early as May 7.

The census is encouraging administrators of group-living quarters to report their populations with as little in-person contact as possible. Such facilities include nursing homes, prisons, and student housing. These efforts have been delayed until April 16.

The census is also working with service providers in soup kitchens, shelters and other facilities to count the people they serve, but those efforts have been delayed until April 29.

Census takers will begin counting people experiencing homelessness beginning May 1. People living in transitionary places like campgrounds, RV parks, marinas and hotels will be counted by census takers beginning April 23.

No change has been made to the Dec. 31 deadline for delivering the states’ population totals to the president. These totals will determine each states’ number of seats in the House of Representatives.

No change has been made to the April 1, 2021, deadline for delivering local counts to each state, either. Those numbers will be used to determine legislative redistricting.

The fact sheet states that census takers will practice strict social distancing during all in-person operations regardless of delays.

Manning said these dates are subject to change as the COVID-19 situation progresses. He said three days from now the situation could be different, and that the bureau would have more information available after Wednesday, which is also Census Day, the official start date of the 2020 Census.

“These timelines are changing all the time,” he said.


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