The U.S. Census Bureau always planned to rely on mail, phone and, to a greater extent than ever, the internet to convince people to fill out their 2020 questionnaires.
With the COVID-19 outbreak raging here and across the country, the ability of the Census Bureau to send out individuals to count people who have been missed in the self-response has been delayed.
One of the unanticipated developments of the spread of the new coronavirus is that people are now being told to stay at home at the same time their census form may be sitting within a stack of mail in their households waiting to be filled out.
“With COVID-19 and people staying at home, this may help increase the online (census) response rate,” said Linda Gilmore, public information officer for Atlantic County. “It takes 10 minutes to answer 10 questions to impact 10 years worth of funding.”
The spread of COVID-19 led to the cancellation of Census Day activities, which were supposed to take place April 1, Gilmore said. There were supposed to be events at the nine county public libraries and the county senior centers among other places, she said.
Atlantic and Cape May counties each have their own 2020 Census Complete Count Committees as do Cumberland and Ocean counties.
Within Atlantic County, Atlantic City and Pleasantville have their own Complete Count Committees for the first time, said Robert Lindaw, Atlantic County Census Complete Count Committee coordinator. For the 2010 census, it is estimated that about 65% of the people who lived in Atlantic County filled out their census forms, he said.
Gov. Phil Murphy put a focus on this state having an accurate census count, and grant money was made available to allow Atlantic City and Pleasantville to have their own Census Complete Count Committees, Lindaw said.
In Atlantic County, the areas that have been historically hard to count have been Egg Harbor City, Hammonton, Atlantic City, Pleasantville, Buena Vista Township, Buena and the western part of Hamilton Township, Gilmore said.
The U.S. Census Bureau hopes to take advantage of people being at home by taking its publicity to the internet.
Wednesday, April 1, is still April Fools’ Day, and it’s no joke, said Lori S. Carlin, partnership specialist for Atlantic and Cape May counties, New York Regional Census Center, U.S. Census Bureau.
Carlin said she would do a webinar Wednesday, and the Atlantic County librarians, who had planned to do public events, would do social media blasts instead.
“Now is a good time to respond through the internet,” Lindaw said. “It’s still important to do.”
The number of people living in Atlantic and Cape May counties continues to decline, a trend …
Linda D. Peyton, Pleasantville’s city administrator, said her city, along with the county, has three digital billboard ads running for those who may be out traveling on the Black Horse Pike.
“For those indoors during this time, Pleasantville has utilized its Comcast local access channel 97 running around the clock 2020 Census information in both English and Spanish as a constant reminder to complete the questionnaire,” Peyton said.
Pleasantville Mayor Jesse L. Tweedle Sr. has an information message running on channel 97, expressing the confidentiality of providing the information, significance of providing information for future funding and why everyone counts, Peyton said.
Michael Chait, Greater Atlantic City Chamber president, said the chamber will be pushing the filling out of the census form through its digital platforms — Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn — and in an email blast to its 500 members.
“We encourage our businesses to encourage their tens of thousands of employees to fill out the census,” Chait said.
Leslie Gimeno, the organizer of the Cape May 2020 Census Complete Count Committee, said she thinks this go-round with the census will go much easier, faster and cheaper to reach more people using social media and the internet compared with a decade ago.
In 2010, the hard-to-count areas of Cape May County were portions of Wildwood, Lower Township and Woodbine, which had lower responses than other parts of the county, Gimeno said.
Cape May County will encourage everyone to be counted because census numbers are used in many calculations to determine the amount of federal aid that people receive, Gimeno said.
“I would think a lot of people are working remotely from home,” Gimeno said. “The form takes about five minutes (to fill out).”