The Census 2020 Complete Count Committee Liaison for the city of Grand Rapids, Lou Canfield told us about the impact of the COVID-19 public health crisis on this year’s census proceedings.
The 2020 census is underway with some operational adjustment due to the COVID-19 public health crisis, and Grand Rapids is no exception. The Complete Count Committee “Everyone Counts” Grand Rapids 2020 has been working diligently to get a complete and accurate count of all residents living in the city.
The public emergency altered efforts that until then had focused mainly on reaching out to people from key neighborhoods. “We were focusing on neighborhoods where historically there’s been a lower-participation-rate census. We were going to a lot of events and community meetings, but everything had to stop in mid-March,” said Lou Canfield, the Census 2020 Complete Count Committee Liaison for the city of Grand Rapids.
In response, the committee shifted to digital channels such as social media, advertising, and billboards to encourage residents to participate and learn about the benefits of being counted. So far, the strategy has paid off. “Just in Grand Rapids, roughly two-thirds of households have already responded. And for comparison purposes, that was the self-response rate for all of 2010,” Canfield stated.
Currently, nationwide, the online, phone and mailed self-response data collection process has been extended until October 31. “As the deadline has been extended, we’re going to keep working, focusing on particular neighborhoods with higher percentages of rental houses and immigrant families. Those neighborhoods tend to have lower response rates,” he added.
Regarding immigrant communities—especially Latinos—the committee has been working closely with some organizations as the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanics Center to encourage engagement. “The current participation rate of Hispanics is lower, and the self-response rate is inferior to other parts of town. Hispanic residents are a bit skeptical about the census, but I think it’s pretty close, and that’s why we are focusing our efforts to fill this gap.”
In these communities, they have been trying to share the message that there are robust legal protections for census data. “This information can’t be released on an individual level outside the Census Bureau for 72 years and may only be used for statistical purposes. Also, the census doesn’t ask about citizenship or immigration status. It does ask about race and ethnicity, and these answers will be used only to paint a portrait of our nation and communities,” Canfield remarked.
Finally, he concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic has not decreased the value of the census but instead highlighted the importance of allocating the right resources to our community based on the count. “This money goes to hospitals, schools, families, older adults and children’s programs, which are of extreme importance in emergencies like the one we are facing.”