Clark, Champaign officials continue to stress importance of census

Doug Crabill, chairman of the Champaign County Census 2020 Complete Count Committee, looks over the LED sign in front of the Urbana Business Offices that reminds residents that everybody counts on the census. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
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Doug Crabill, chairman of the Champaign County Census 2020 Complete Count Committee, looks over the LED sign in front of the Urbana Business Offices that reminds residents that everybody counts on the census. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Local officials are still stressing the importance of a complete 2020 census despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Due to state and national guidelines designed to help curb the pandemic, there has been a greater emphasis on getting out messaging regarding the census through virtual means.

In Clark and Champaign counties, it means continuing to get the word out while adapting to the current situation, including a statewide stay-at-home order.

Response rates for both counties have surpassed 50 percent as of Sunday afternoon.

Community leaders have been using social media, advertising as well as posting information regarding the census outside government buildings and, in some cases, on utility bills. They have implemented those tactics both before and during the current pandemic.

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“What we are communicating has changed,” said Ethan Harris, the director of the Clark County’s community and economic development department.

Though some of that messaging has continued during the pandemic, it also includes tweaking that information in light of the pandemic. Local governments are receiving constant updates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

A complete count committee was established in Champaign County in 2019 in order to promote the count and improve response rates among residents for this year’s decennial census. Its chair Doug Crabill said they have done a series of social media messaging in the weeks preceding Census Day on April 1.

They also started doing radio advertisements in March, each with different information regarding the census count. Those advertisements ended on April 5, Crabill said.

In addition, Champaign County officials have used billboards to get census information out to the public and some municipalities have pushed out census information by including it on utility bills.

The Census Bureau has also pushed out daily updates showing the number of households in a given area that have already responded to the 2020 census. That information can be accessed online at 2020census.gov/en/response-rates.html.

Households should have received a post card in the mail in March from the Census Bureau. That card includes a 12-digit census ID allowing the head of the household to log on to my2020census.gov and complete the 2020 census questionnaire. One person can complete the questionnaire for everyone in their household.

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.

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

As of Sunday afternoon, about 52% of Clark County households have completed the census survey, with the majority doing it online. In Champaign County, that self response rate is 51.2%.

“People are still responding despite the COVID-19 outbreak,” Crabill said.

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The focus right now is to increase self response rates as the census process is being conducted in a time of social distancing. The role of door-to-door census takers has been delayed. At what point they will be active in communities across the country depends on local and national guidance.

However, the Census Bureau is still actively looking for census takers for when those coronavirus preventative measures implemented at both the state and national levels began to ease.

The bureau is still receiving applications and the goal is to start training workers virtually as they seek to get the remaining responses for the 2020 census. That training is expected to start towards the end of May.

The Census Bureau will also begin sending out smart devices at that time for census takers to use and any other materials they might need.

As of Friday afternoon, the bureau had reached about 74% of its total goal for receiving census worker applications in Clark County. Their goal is to identify roughly 900 people in the county who could serve as census workers, said Fernando Armstrong, the regional director of the Census Bureau.

In Champaign County, the bureau is looking to recruit about 300 people and had made 98% of their application goal as of Friday afternoon, Armstrong added.

Open positions include those that will have people work in the field as well as those that will have people work for the Census Bureau either in an office or remotely.

“What we are noticing right now is that people have more time to participate. That could be college students who are now back home or those that have been temporarily laid off or those looking for additional income,” he said.

To apply for a census job, call (855) 562-2020.

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