How will COVID-19 affect the 2020 Census?

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The U.S. Census Bureau has tweaked their timeline for counting people amid COVID-19, but agency officials say collection efforts are still on track.

Last week, the agency suspended field operations until April 1.

Now, census workers won’t start knocking on doors to follow-up with those who haven’t completed their invitation until May 28. At least for most of the country.

“Once we resume operations, we certainly will be practicing social distancing,” Timothy Olson, the Census Bureau’s Associate Director of Field Operations said during a conference call Friday.

According to Albert E. Fontenot, Jr., another Census Bureau official, census workers are classified as “critical services,” like postal workers.

Crystal Viagran is the director of finance and operations at the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at the University of Texas at Austin. She says a Census undercount could lead to financial hurt.

Last December, the Hogg Foundation awarded $2.1 million in grants to various entities throughout the state, supporting 2020 Census count efforts. Because of COVID-19, those entities have shifted to virtual outreach, including texting and social media.

The Texas Demographic Center notes that just a 1% undercount in Texas “could translate to a loss of $300 million” in federal funding.

“It’s pretty scary for those communities, to think of the loss,” she said.

As of Friday morning, more than 18.6 million people have already responded to the 2020 Census. And, the agency has seen more than 2.8 million applicants for Census jobs.

The Census Bureau’s timeline, outlined below, is still to submit each state’s population count to the president by Dec. 31.

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