Census organizers learn how to navigate the pandemic to ensure all residents count
Updated: Dec 17, 2020
The work of Census workers, as is the case with many industries, was prompted to adapt to help make sure all residents count amid the coronavirus pandemic.
One theme commonly shared by Joliet-area organizers over the years remains the importance of reaching people of color.
Veronica Gloria, the executive director at the Spanish Community Center in Joliet, said the community’s response to seeing Census workers has been positive considering the pandemic.
“People are very enthusiastically completing the Census,” she said.
However, the work of Census organizers looked different than it had in years past, which Gloria said has made their jobs more challenging.
For example, personal protective equipment has become a requirement of those at the Spanish Community Center advocating for people to complete the Census at outreach events, Gloria said.
“We have a lot of extra masks,” she said, noting the masks may be branded with messages encouraging people to complete the Census. “That’s been a top priority from the beginning and it’ll continue to ensure everybody stays safe.”
Census organizers have pivoted to phone banking, social media and other avenues to spread the word amid the pandemic.
“COVID has made it difficult to do door to door outreach that really has proven effective in previous years,” Gloria said. “That’s another reason why we’ve been doing a lot of other types of outreach in addition to in-person events.”
The effort to make sure all residents count was complicated further by talk of the Census including a citizenship status question, which Gloria said was not asked of participants after all. Still, Gloria said many people were confused by it.
“The change in the end date was also confusing for a lot of folks,” she said.
In response to COVID-19, organizers will continue to make a push through Oct. 31 to help ensure residents complete the Census. Previously, the deadline to participate was Sept. 30.
Gloria acknowledged that not everyone trusts the process or understands how the government uses Census data, but she stressed how important it is for people to know their information is secure.
Gloria said many people have been working hard to make sure residents count.
Not everyone knows how to complete the Census, she said, let alone why they are asked to complete it.
Gloria said educating the public on the Census and its importance to the community is vital.
The Census is a tool used by federal government officials to determine how monetary resources and seats in the legislature are allocated in communities across the nation.
Gloria said she hopes members of the hard to count populations, which are typically low- income residents, will take advantage of the Census deadline’s extension.
“I still think that if we had the extent of the outreach that we did, we would still have to push to remind people about the Census,” she said. “The numbers would have been far lower.”
The Census can be completed online at 2020census.gov or by phone at 844-330-2020.