US Census invitations are out, but field operations are impacted by coronavirus outbreak

Cherri Gregg
March 20, 2020 - 5:29 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Coronavirus restrictions did not stop U.S. Census invitations from going out, but they could have an impact when census workers go door to door. 

"Every mailbox in the country should have received an invitation to participate in the census,” said Al Fontenot, who directs the decennial operation.

He said census efforts kicked off a week ago, and so far, nearly 20 million people have already responded online, via phone or by mail. And while COVID-19 restrictions will not impact those self-responses, it will impact field operations.

"The health and safety of our staff and the public remain of the utmost importance,” he said. 

Tim Olson, associate director of Census Field Operations, said field outreach has been suspended for two weeks until at least April 1. 

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It mostly impacts mobile questionnaire assistance programs and paper processing centers. But hiring of census workers will continue. So far, they have 2.6 million applicants.

"And our recruiting website will remain open for the foreseeable future,” Olson said. 

He said the Census Bureau may need to hire even more temporary workers to do outreach, depending up the extent of the COVID-19 restriction. 

Officials say field operations designed to count those in prisons, senior centers and other residential facilities will be delayed at least to mid-April. 

Door to door outreach to those who fail to respond to census invitations will be pushed back to at least mid- to late May. 

The final deadline for completion of the census, which was originally set for July 31, has been extended to Aug. 14.