As of last week, census workers will no longer go door-to-door, at least for the time being, census worker and Highland County Census Co-Coordinator Virginia Purdy told The Times-Gazette.
“I was working for them Monday and Tuesday of last week. On Monday and Tuesday, they changed how we were supposed to work. They don’t mail to P.O. boxes, so people who have P.O. boxes get their information hand-delivered,” Purdy said. “Originally, we knocked on the door, made contact, checked the address, and gave them the information if they were home. They told us they didn’t want us to make contact, so all we were doing was dropping the envelopes off, hanging them on their doorknobs. On Wednesday evening, they totally stopped all door-to-door workers out in the field. We were told to stay home. I don’t know where that puts everything.”
Though census events at Highland County libraries have been postponed, Purdy said she and other members of the Highland County Census Count Committee are keeping an eye on the development of the COVID-19 pandemic response and waiting for further direction from the U.S. Census Bureau before making any decisions.
“The plans we had are basically on hold. I was hesitant to donate items for the library events until we saw what was really going to happen and if they’re going to extend the deadline for the census,” Purdy said. “All I know is that they stopped those of us in the field. Nobody worked Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday of last week. Or this week. Or next week.”
Purdy said she and other census workers have been told they won’t be working until at least April.
Philadelphia Regional Census Center Partnership Specialist Samuel Knight said U.S. Census Bureau employees have been instructed not to speak in-depth with the media about COVID-19’s effects on the 2020 census, but he indicated that some dates have been extended.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s website, the self-response phase has been extended to Aug. 14, 2020. For those with P.O. boxes, the website says that the period when census workers will hand-deliver census forms has been extended into May. In the meantime, households can respond to the census online by entering their addresses, even if they haven’t received their invitation.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 census response-rate map, 32.1 percent of Ohio households and 31.2 percent of Highland County households have already responded to the census.
Knight said that college students should still respond to the census as though they were still living in on-campus or off-campus housing.
According to the Census Bureau website, “Even if you are away from your student housing due to your school being temporarily closed due to COVID-19, you will be counted at the student housing where you usually live… You should count yourself at your off-campus address even if you go elsewhere for school breaks or if you are temporarily staying elsewhere, even with your parents, if your school is closed due to COVID-19.”
The Census Bureau site added that data from the 2020 census will affect funding for college and university programs like mental health services and school safety as well as the Federal Pell Grant Program.
But census data doesn’t just affect programs for college students. During past interviews, Knight said that census data affects each American’s daily life.
“Some people might think to themselves, ‘How does this have to do with me?’ or ‘What is my stake in this?’” Knight said. “Everything we do at some point in the day traces back to having good data and statistics to be able to make decisions about where money is spent and representation is allotted.”
Data gathered during the 2020 census, Knight said, will affect how the government decides to allocate more than $675 billion in federal funds each year for the next decade. According to Knight, if any community members are missed during the census count, the data won’t accurately represent the area, which could cause Ohio and Highland County governments and organizations to be denied funding.
In a previous interview, Purdy said participation in the census is vitally important to the county, adding that “with the stroke of a pen,” Greenfield went from city to village status as a result of the 2010 census.
“This is about the funding for our roads, our medical programs and so much more,” she said. “It affects our lives here, and it even affects how many people we get to represent us in government.”
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.