With less than a month to go for the deadline to respond to the 2020 Census, Arizona’s response rate ranks in the bottom five nationwide.
According to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, about 80% of Arizona’s households have been enumerated in the 2020 Census as of Sept. 7. About 85.1% of households across the country have been accounted for in the once-in-a-decade, constitutionally-mandated head count.
“The reality is that Arizona is behind right now, and we believe it’s in large part to the operational delays, and reducing the timelines that we have to follow-up with people,” said Alec Thomson, director of the Arizona Complete Count Committee.
The pandemic delayed the start timeline for census workers to in-person follow-ups with people who hadn’t responded to the census online, by phone or by mail. Those operations were planned for mid-May through July.
Since Aug. 9, census takers have visited households that have not responded to the Census in Arizona. According to a U.S. Census spokesperson, over 4,000 census workers are currently visiting households in Arizona that have not responded yet to the decennial count.
In early August, the Trump administration abruptly announced that it would halt the 2020 Census count on Sept. 30, four weeks earlier than the original Census Bureau deadline.
Besides determining political representation in Congress, census data is also used to draw local political districts and guides federal funding for social services, education and transportation projects for the next decade. And businesses rely on accurate census counts for managing their operations and growth.
Arizona estimates that each resident who is not counted represents an estimated loss of $887 in federal funding.
“Even a one-percent undercount would represent a loss of $62 million per year for a decade — a total loss of at least $620 million,” according to a press release from the Arizona Complete Count Committee.
While the state was planning to partner with schools, libraries and large community events as part of its census response campaign, those plans had to change due to the COVID-10 pandemic.
“We had to adapt our strategy to one that was more virtual,” Thomson said.
While everyone has been impacted by the operational delays and change in timelines, he said the most impacted populations are those who historically are undercounted in the census: those who speak little English, young children, students, and tribal and rural communities.
The state is relying on media advertising to encourage Arizona residents to respond to the census, Thomson said.