Coronavirus pandemic complicates census plans

Published: Apr. 21, 2020 at 7:23 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - The coronavirus pandemic distracts us from so much of our normal everyday lives and obligations. One of those obligations community leaders don’t want you to forget about is the 2020 census.

This is especially difficult because 2020 is an important year for Alabama, if there is any kind of an under count Alabama has the potential to lose one it’s congressional seats.

James Vandiver, a planner with Huntsville City, said Alabama ranks high, so far, in terms of response rates for southern states.

“It just takes 10 minutes for you to finish your census form and that makes a 10 year impact for our funding and political representation at all levels of government," he said.

Vandiver said Madison County is also second in Alabama for response rates, but there is still a lot of work to do.

“That still means we have a long way to go," he said. "That’s 40% of our households have not responded yet, that’s 36,000 households just within the city of Huntsville alone.”

Vandiver said the plan was to host different census events to give people who don’t have WiFi a chance to fill out the census, but now those aren’t happening.

He said for people without access to internet, they can also fill out the census by mail or over the phone.

Vandiver said, despite the coronavirus limitations, census workers will still be going to the houses of people who do not answer the census.

“Everybody is going to be counted one way or another," Vandiver said. "If they don’t do it themselves someone will come to their door. Probably sometime this summer, maybe even closer to the fall now because of the pandemic.”

Vandiver said they are hopin the curve will flatten out by the fall and it will be safe for census workers to go door-to-door.

This could still pose a health risk to those census workers, so Vandiver asks you just make the smart move and fill the form out so these workers have to go to as few houses as possible.

As far as the homeless community in Alabama, Vandiver said the Census Bureau is working with homeless advocacy organizations.

“They’re going to be working to do a point-in-time count to make sure they get all of those homeless and transient populations counted,” he said.

Vandiver said they have procedures in place and to make sure they can get this community counted safely while the coronavirus pandemic goes on.

If you still have not filled out your census form you can go to the 2020 census website and complete it online, by mail or over the phone.

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