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2020 Census Awareness Campaign Underway

2020 Census
Jerry Kenney

With the decennial United States Census mailings just weeks away, census organizers are ramping up community outreach efforts across the country.  

At a small gathering at the Dayton Metro Library, hosted by Ohio and Pennsylvania census officials Tuesday, U.S. Census Bureau representatives stressed the importance of a full count, calling it, "the most important endeavor we’ll undergo as a nation for the next 10 years.” 

The census is critical to determining how many congressional seats are apportioned to each state. It also affects how more than $675 billion in federal funding is distributed to state and local communities each year, and plays a key role in legislative redistricting.

Carol Hector-Harris, with the U.S. Census Bureau, says it’s especially important to capture accurate counts on populations that tend to be undercounted.

“There are no do-overs. We get to do this once every 10 years and whatever that population count is at the end of the census, we've got to live with it. If we've missed somebody, it's money that we're missing out on," she says. "There's a children's hospital here in Dayton, the people who provide daycare, Head Start, all of them, look at the numbers of little children so they know how many to expect to participate in their programs. That's how important this is that everyone is captured.”

The constitutionally mandated census that takes place every 10 years began in 1790. At the time, there were 3.9 million people living in the U.S. Compare that to today’s estimated population of more than 329 million and it’s easy to see why census bureau officials have a massive campaign underway to prepare residents for the upcoming count.

The census has undergone some changes since it began. A fairly recent evolution included the elimination of the long-form census survey.

“There used to be, 1 in 6 households would receive a long form with very detailed questions,” the Census Bureau's Rose Simmons says. "In 2005 Congress authorized legislation giving the authority to collect the information every month of every year through the American Community Survey."

Around 242,000 households receive the American Community Survey monthly.

But Hector-Harris says it’s important that every person living in the U.S. is tallied in this year's 10-year count.

“We have all kinds of circumstances where people live with relatives or friends," she says. "Whatever the circumstance, it doesn't make us any different. We want to make sure you know that you matter.”

The national count officially began in January in the rural Alaskan village of Toksook Bay and continues nationwide.

Beginning in mid-March people can expect to see an invitation in the mail including instructions for completing the census. Responses can be completed online, by phone, or by mail. 

For more information, visit 2020CENSUS.gov.

2020 Census Timeline:

January 21: The U.S. Census Bureau starts counting the population in remote Alaska. The count officially begins in the rural Alaskan village of Toksook Bay.

March 12 - 20: Households will begin receiving official Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail.

March 30 - April 1: The Census Bureau will count people who are experiencing homelessness over these three days. As part of this process, the Census Bureau counts people in shelters, at soup kitchens and mobile food vans, on the streets, and at non-sheltered, outdoor locations such as tent encampments.

April 1: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail. When you respond to the census, you'll tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020.

April: Census takers will begin visiting college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers, and others who live among large groups of people. Census takers also begin conducting quality check interviews to help ensure an accurate count.

May - July: Census takers will begin visiting homes that haven't responded to the 2020 Census to help make sure everyone is counted.

December: The Census Bureau will deliver apportionment counts to the President and Congress as required by law.


March 31: By this date, the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to states. This information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.

Jerry Kenney was introduced to WYSO by a friend and within a year of first tuning in became an avid listener and supporter. He began volunteering at the station in 1991 and began hosting Alpha Rhythms in February of 1992. Jerry joined the WYSO staff in 2007 as a host of All Things Considered and soon transitioned into hosting Morning Edition. In addition to now hosting All Things Considered, Jerry is the host and producer of WYSO Weekend, WYSO's weekly news and arts magazine. He has also produced several radio dramas for WYSO in collaboration with local theater companies. Jerry has won several Ohio AP awards as well as an award from PRINDI for his work with the WYSO news department. Jerry says that the best part of his job is being able to talk to people in the community and share their experiences with WYSO listeners.