Census Bureau Press Briefing Marks One Year Out From Census Day

APRIL 1, 2019 ­­– The U.S. Census Bureau provided an operational update today on the status of 2020 Census operations, emphasizing the need for innovative, collaborative partnerships to ensure a complete and accurate count of everyone living in the United States. The Census Day 2019 press briefing marked one year out from the official reference day for the census.

“The Constitution requires that each decade, we take a census of the population to determine the number of seats each state will be allocated in the U.S. House of Representatives,” said Census Bureau Director Dr. Steven Dillingham. “To meet that requirement, we go to extraordinary lengths to ensure we count everyone once, only once, and in the right place. We know that the 2020 Census is important to every community. Census data guide how federal, state and local funding for critical services such as schools, fire departments and health care facilities is distributed.”

“Data literally shape the future of your community. That’s why it’s so important that everyone understands that responding to the 2020 Census is safe, easy and important,” Dillingham continued.

Dillingham and Albert E. Fontenot Jr., the associate director for Decennial Census Programs, described how preparations for 2020 Census operations are on track and on budget.

“In 2020, all households will have the option to respond to the census online, over the phone and by mail,” Fontenot explained. “We have successfully completed numerous tests to validate our systems and operations to support these innovations, while ensuring that respondent data remain confidential, and we are ready to conduct the most technologically advanced and accurate decennial census in our nation’s history.”

Dillingham and Fontenot also described how the Census Bureau is working with industry, private-sector and federal partners to get the word out about the importance and safety of responding to the 2020 Census.

Additionally, the 2020 Census is the third decennial census to include a dedicated advertising and communications campaign to increase awareness of the census and to encourage individuals to respond on their own. Dillingham shared how the campaign communications platform, “Shape your future. START HERE.” will be used in advertising, digital marketing and public relations activities.

The promotional and outreach activities that have ramped up over the last year across the nation, ahead of the 2020 Census, included the establishment of state and local complete count committees, diverse partners coming together to reduce the undercount of young children and other historically hard-to-count populations, as well as research to help learn about potential barriers, attitudes and motivators about participating in the census.

Tim Olson, the associate director for Field Operations, highlighted the value of engaging local communities in a successful census operation.

“Our hiring and partnership strategy recognizes that trusted, familiar voices can make a big difference in motivating census participation. Our partners will also play a critical role in helping recruit the thousands of people we will rely on to conduct a complete and accurate census,” Olson said.

Census Bureau officials were joined at the press briefing by Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, the Annie E. Casey Foundation President and CEO Lisa Hamilton, and American Library Association President Loida Garcia-Febo. These and thousands of other partners play a critical role in the communications and outreach effort.

“An accurate counting of Native Americans is particularly important because of the government-to-government relationship tribes have with the federal government. The federal government has treaty responsibilities to provide education, health care, housing and other services to Native Americans,” said Bill Anoatubby, Governor, Chickasaw Nation. “Therefore, an accurate count of people from each Native American nation or tribe is essential in outlining the details of those responsibilities. We encourage all tribal nations to institute their own initiatives to encourage their citizens’ participation in the 2020 census. Tribal leaders can reach out to citizens and constituents explaining the importance of the census and encouraging participation. By participating, we speak for the generations of native people that preceded us and for those yet to come.”

“An accurate 2020 Census is critical to understanding how kids, families and communities are doing – and informing our decisions as a nation,” said Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a Baltimore-based national philanthropy that seeks to build a brighter future for America’s children. “We all have a part to play in increasing awareness about the importance and safety of participating and making sure all kids are counted, no matter where they live or where they are from.”

“The American Library Association is committed to helping our communities achieve a fair, accurate and inclusive count because libraries serve everyone,” said Loida Garcia-Febo, president, American Library Association. “With 99 percent of hard-to-count areas located within five miles of a public library, we have a tremendous opportunity to promote equity. We want our communities to know that they can count on libraries to help reach a complete count in 2020.”

The first enumeration of the 2020 Census officially begins January 21, 2020, in Toksook Bay, Alaska. In March 2020, the Census Bureau will mail invitations to respond to nearly every household in the country and activate the online response form. Responses to the 2020 Census are confidential and protected by law and can only be used to produce statistics.