An Open Letter: Get Counted In The 2020 Census

Self-responding online, by phone, or by mail is the most accurate way to be counted

The 2020 Census has begun. It represents one of the greatest undertakings of our country: a constitutionally mandated count of everyone living in the United States of America. However, in light of the public health and safety concerns surrounding the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we strongly encourage every household to respond to the census on their own rather than waiting for a census taker to visit.

The 2020 Census is quick, safe, and easy to complete. You are able to respond online, by phone, or by mail, ensuring that you have multiple avenues to make sure you and your household are counted. A complete and accurate census requires the fullest participation of all people living in the country.

All households will receive an invitation to participate, with a unique household code. But even if you misplace the ID number for your household, you can go online or call the toll-free telephone assistance lines — 1–844–330–2020 — to complete the form without that code.

Self-responding is the most accurate and cost-effective way to be counted.

The 2020 Census serves as the basis for apportioning the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the states. Census data also are used to draw congressional and state legislative district lines, thus ensuring an equal voice in our democratic system of government for every American. In addition, the federal government allocates over $1.5 trillion annually in assistance to states, localities, families, nonprofits, and businesses based on census or census-derived data.

The 2020 Census serves as the basis for apportioning the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the states. Census data also are used to draw congressional and state legislative district lines, thus ensuring an equal voice in our democratic system of government for every American. In addition, the federal government allocates over $1.5 trillion annually in assistance to states, localities, families, nonprofits, and businesses based on census or census-derived data.

Community leaders rely on accurate and reliable data to understand community needs, locate vital services, allocate fiscal resources prudently, and properly plan for the future. At the local level, government officials base infrastructure development and resource management decisions on census data. Businesses invest in job-creating initiatives, such as building new production and sales facilities, when census data demonstrate that opportunities exist in a given community. Nonprofit organizations use census data to target their limited resources to the most vulnerable communities with the greatest need. And researchers use census data as the gold standard for many demographic, economic, and social sciences.

Census data are so integral to a well-functioning government and to equitable access to federal, state, and local benefits and services that public officials cannot adequately serve their communities if those data are not accurate and comprehensive. Hard-to-count populations — including rural and remote communities, native communities, young children, renters, and the homeless — may face additional challenges this year due to COVID-19. Equally important, the so-called “digital divide” means that certain population groups will have less opportunity to respond online, reducing response options for their households and increasing the risk that they will not be counted accurately. An undercount of these people can impact everything from political representation to the receipt of federal funding.

While the Census Bureau has designed key operations to help reduce or eliminate these differential undercounts in 2020, the agency must focus its resources and attention on communities that may not be able to self-respond. Therefore, if your household is able to respond on its own, we strongly encourage you to do so. This will ensure that census taker visits focus on the communities that need the most outreach and assistance. The Census Bureau has extended the self-response period to August 14, 2020, during which the public is strongly encouraged to respond online, by phone, or by mail.

For more information, visit the Census website.

The Census Bureau is committed to a complete and accurate decennial census, but it is everyone’s civic duty to do their part to ensure that we are all counted, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sincerely,

Senator Brian Schatz

Senator Dianne Feinstein

Senator Richard J. Durbin

Senator Jack Reed

Senator Kamala D. Harris

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

Senator Mazie K. Hirono

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Senator Tammy Duckworth

Senator Chris Van Hollen

Senator Sherrod Brown

Senator Cory A. Booker

Senator Tammy Baldwin

Senator Amy Klobuchar

Senator Jeffrey A. Merkley

Senator Richard Blumenthal

Senator Bernard Sanders

Senator Tom Udall

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Senator Jacky Rosen

Senator Tim Kaine

Senator Gary C. Peters

Senator Thomas R. Carper