Once every 10 years, the Census tries to count every person living in the US.
Typically, grassroots organizers and civic leaders go door to door, encouraging people to respond.
The Census determines congressional seats, electoral college votes, and funding for states that equals about $1.5 trillion dollars. In 2010, the count led to federal support in Nevada totaling about $6.2 billion.
Nevada is spending $5 million on efforts to count everybody. That compares to $1 million spent in 2010.
Yet the whole operation is under threat by COVID-19.
It has the people whose job is to encourage participation in the census scrambling.
Kerry Dumick is the statewide outreach coordinator for the Nevada Census 2020.
“My role has been to supplement the overall U.S. Census Bureau efforts here in the state of Nevada," she explained, "My team has been working on dedicated and targeted outreach to our hard to count communities here in Nevada.”
However, since the virus started to spread, Dumick and her team have changed their approach to getting out the word.
“We have pivoted operations. We are really doubling down on social media, websites, and newsletters through all of our volunteers,” she said.
Census takers with the Census Bureau are expected to be out in late May to go door-to-door to find people who didn't fill out their Census forms. To avoid doing that, Dumick said people need to use the online forms.
“The best thing about the Census this year is that you can complete it at home. You can complete it at home safely and keep yourself safe and Census takers safe and you can do that online, or by phone or by mail.”
The phone line is 844-330-2020.
Nevada is considered a hard to count state because of its minority populations, tribal communities and rural areas. Dumick said getting to those populations is vital. Before the virus outbreak, her team held 700 education meetings, ran public service announcements on TV and radio and worked to count homeless populations.
Since the outbreak, their message has changed.
“The most important message that we have is we are not taking the coronavirus lightly in the Nevada Census 2020 operation perspective but one way to have a tiny bit of control in what’s happening right now in our state and our country is to fill out your Census form,” she said.
Dumick noted that more people in the state means more money for the state and that money could go to funding public health initiatives like pandemic preparedness.
There have been concerns about scammers using the Census as a way to get people's information. Dumick said a real Census form will say "Census Bureau 2020" and "Commerce Department."
Besides that, the questions will be different.
“The real Census form will ask you questions like: your name, your birthday, your address, your relationships in your household. Fake forms are going to ask you things like: social security numbers, credit card information, political affiliation."
Kerry Dumick, state outreach coordinator, Nevada Census 2020
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