Census Bureau Adds Emails, Phone Calls to Door-Knocking

A YMCA youth ambassador holds a tablet with a Census 2020 interview questionnaire during a community food distribution in Los Angeles, Aug. 12, 2020.
Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

If you haven't filled out the 2020 census form yet, you may be getting an email, call or questionnaire in the mail asking you to answer the questions.

The U.S. Census Bureau said Friday it was sending out emails to homes in neighborhoods where the response rate was less than 50%. The email addresses were culled from contact information from state assistance programs and from commercial lists. The Census Bureau said it expects to send out 20 million emails, a first for a decennial census, as the agency enters the homestretch of the once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident.

The 2020 census started for most U.S. residents in March, but some operations were interrupted by the pandemic.

The Census Bureau also said it was directing census-takers to call homes that haven't yet responded, using phone numbers from third-party purchased data, as well as sending out a seventh mailing that includes a paper questionnaire.

The extra efforts to reach out to homes that haven't yet responded to the 2020 census comes as up to 500,000 census-takers were sent out this week to knock on the doors of laggard households. As of Friday, 63.6% of households have responded to the 2020 census.

The extra push is coming as the Census Bureau is dealing with a shortened schedule for wrapping up the head count in the middle of a pandemic. The Census Bureau had asked Congress for deadline extensions that would have allowed it to finish the census at the end of October. With the request stalled in Congress, the Census Bureau said it would finish the count at the end of September.

Census-takers this year have to reach 8 million more homes than they did in 2010, and they have only six weeks instead of the 10 weeks they did a decade ago, according to an analysis by the Center for Urban Research at CUNY. Forty-eight senators, including Alaska’s two Republican senators, this week sent a letter to Senate and House leaders urging them to extend the deadlines.


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