The Census Bureau is gearing up for the 2020 census. Kathleen O’Connell of the United States Census Bureau spoke to the Madison Town Council at the March 7 meeting emphasizing the importance of the decennial census for determining representation and distribution of various types of federal funding.

According to O’Connell, a representative from the Charlottesville office of the United States Census Bureau, the agency is ramping up efforts to get an accurate count of the United States population especially the traditionally hard to count populations such as children, immigrant populations and those in rural areas.

“The agency has done a lot of research and is reaching out to communities in advance of the 2020 census,” said O’Connell. “We are making every effort to get an accurate count of the population next year. It’s so important for so many reasons. Census data is used to reapportion Congress and determine how to distribute funding for many services and infrastructure projects like health care, schools, roads and businesses.”

Speaking to the council members that evening, O’Connell emphasized that the U.S. Census Bureau wants to work with community leaders to get the most accurate data possible.

“You know your town better than we do,” she said. “You know how to reach the pockets of people who might shy away from us. We have done a lot of research to learn about the potential barriers to response. Often local leaders are more trusted and can encourage participation. We will have several methods of collecting data; an online survey, telephone, written survey and by a census worker. We will be sending out a letter inviting each household to participate either online, by mail or by phone. While we’re hopeful that most people will use the online option, we are aware that many rural areas still don’t have good internet coverage.”

The U.S. Census Bureau will also be looking to fill many temporary positions for the decennial census. O’Connell queried the council about potential locations for posters announcing both the job opportunity and information about the census. Council member Alma Lou Ayres suggested the Madison County Library as it is frequented by many in the county. Town clerk Barbara Roach also suggested the Town of Madison offices and DMV as another heavily trafficked site.

U.S. Census Bureau has another 12 months to continue preparations. Most people will receive a letter in the mail early next March inviting them to respond online to the 2020 census. Some households will also receive paper questionnaires. Reminder mailings will be sent to households that haven’t responded by early April 2020. Census workers will visit households that haven’t responded by April 27.

The goal of the 2020 Census is to count everyone once, only once and in the right place. The agency’s communications campaign “Shape your future. START HERE” is available in English and 12 other languages with the goal of reaching diverse groups across the United States. The Census Bureau believes that the increased outreach combined with the online and phone options for response will increase the accuracy of the 2020 Census and save taxpayer money by reducing the number of follow ups for non-responsive households.

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