Census field operations are underway in Clark and Champaign counties

Census workers are beginning to canvas neighborhoods in Springfield and throughout Clark and Champaign Counties as to count residents who have not yet completed the 2020 forms. CONTRIBUTED

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Census workers are beginning to canvas neighborhoods in Springfield and throughout Clark and Champaign Counties as to count residents who have not yet completed the 2020 forms. CONTRIBUTED

Field operations have started in the area regarding the 2020 census as those efforts were previously delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Census employees operating out of the United States Census Bureau’s Dayton office started knocking on doors in Clark County last week, said Carol Hector-Harris, the media specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau - Philadelphia region.

Field operations related to engaging households who have yet to respond started out of Dayton office a week earlier than what was originally planned as those efforts were slated to start on Aug. 11, according to Hector-Harris.

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The period for those field operations, which primarily consist of door-knocking efforts, and for residents to self respond has been cut a month short nationally.

That deadline is now Sept. 30, and that change is part of efforts, including the hiring of more employees, to “accelerate the completion of data collection and apportionment counts by our statutory deadline of December 31, 2020,” according to a post on the census bureau’s website.

The news came as self response rates for the census nationwide were reported as being 63% last week.

In Clark County, the percentage of households that have responded to the census as of last Monday was 67%, just shy of the state’s self response rate of 67.4%. In Champaign County, that number was about 70%, matching the response rate at the end of the 2010 census.

In Springfield, the response rate was 59.2% as of last Monday and for Urbana, it was 67.8%.

Census results are used to determine how much funding local communities receive for key public services and how many seats each state gets in congress. That information is also used to draw boundaries for congressional and state legislative districts as well as for school districts.

The census bureau’s Dayton office has employed a total 2,500 people in order to conduct the census, with that effort starting earlier this year. Hector-Harris said that office is also in the process of training 1,700 people, with a number of them being used for field work in a total of nine counties, including Clark County.

There has been a large effort to hire census workers from each of those counties. The hope is that local census workers will be better suited in engaging with their own communities as well as encouraging their neighbors to self respond to the census survey.

Those efforts include conducting in-person interviews with households that have yet filled out the survey. Census workers in the area, including in Clark County, are also charged with counting those that live in group quarters, such as nursing homes, as well as those who live in transient locations or are deemed homeless.

Census workers are required to wear personal protection equipment and adhere to social distancing guidelines when out in the community, Hector-Harris said.

Field operations in Champaign County will be conducted out of the bureau’s Toledo office.

A complete count committee was established in Champaign County in 2019 in order to better improve the response rates for this year’s decennial census. So far, the county has the same response rate as it did at the end of the census count in 2010.

Doug Crabill, Champaign County’s complete count committee chair, said they conducted a series of social media messaging in the weeks preceding Census Day on April 1. He said they have continued to focus on census messaging in the months that followed, adapting to changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Self response rates in that county stagnated in June before picking up again in July. Crabill said this has been a learning experience as the committee was not around during the 2010 census.

He said for example they discovered certain reasons why some areas in the county had low response rates.

The village of Christiansburg had switched to PO boxes instead of door-to-door mail delivery since the 2010 census. That created issues in how those residents received census information since surveys were not mailed to PO boxes. That has resulted in additional efforts to improve census outreach to communities such as Christiansburg.

The census can be done either through a mailed-in questionnaire, by phone or online, with the latter not being an option for the 2010 Census. Those wishing to fill out the survey online can do so by entering their 12-digit census ID, mailed to them, when they log onto my2020census.gov to complete the survey.

To respond via phone, call (844) 330-2020. Households can also complete the census by phone without the 12-digit census ID.

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