Census workers to continue with door-to-door visits through September

  • An envelope containing a 2020 census letter mailed to a U.S. resident. Due to the pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau extended its deadlines through the end of September, and workers are currently visiting residential addresses to collect responses for the 2020 census. AP FILE PHOTO/PAUL SANCYA

  • A map on the U.S. census website, which illustrates self-response rates across the country, can be broken down by state and town. In Massachusetts, 67.6% of households have self-responded. SCREENSHOT/2020census.gov

Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 15, 2020

GREENFIELD — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau extended its deadlines through the end of September, and workers are currently visiting residential addresses to collect responses for the 2020 census.

Visits to residential addresses began in August as workers looked to follow up with those who had not filled out the census through self-response. The goal of the census is to get a “snapshot” of everyone who lived in the United States as of April 1, 2020.

According to Regional Director for the U.S. Census Jeff Behler, self-response began in March just before the pandemic hit, with door-knocking to start in May and both ending July 31.

“But it just wasn’t safe to knock on doors in mid-May,” Behler said.

As a result of the pandemic, response deadlines have been pushed back and residents have until Sept. 30 to self-respond to the census or answer questions posed by a census worker. For the last month, up to 500,000 census takers have been going door-to-door to assist people in responding to the 2020 census.

According to census.gov, census takers can be identified by a valid government ID badge with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date on the badge. In most cases, census workers will make up to six attempts at each housing unit address to count possible residents. This includes leaving notification of the attempted visit on the door. The notification will include reminder information on how to respond online, by paper or by phone.

To minimize the need to send census takers to households in person, the Census Bureau is also training census takers to follow up with households by phone. Phone calls will be used on an as-needed basis and when in-person contact attempts have not resulted in an interview. If a voicemail is available, the census taker will leave a message asking the household to call one of the Census Bureau’s call centers.

Behler said the Census Bureau has received a higher response rate this year than for the 2010 census, and credited this to the many workers in local communities. He said having these trusted, local voices is a key element to reaching each citizen for the census. Hampshire County’s self response rate is 74.6%, Franklin County’s is over 72%, and Hampden County’s is 69.2%, all of which are better than the statewide average.

Among those who have been counted across the state, Behler said 67.6% of households have self-responded, and 21 percent of households have been counted via census worker door visits for a total 88.6% response rate. Behler said they will continue working through Sept. 30 to collect the remaining 11.4% of responses.

According to a map that allows viewers to zero in on the response rates in specific areas of Massachusetts, the lowest response rates in Hampshire County include many of the Hilltowns: Middlefield at 50%, Goshen at 57.5%, Huntington at 59.4%, Chesterfield at 65.8%, Plainfield at 66.2%, Worthington at 68.1% and Cummington at 68.5%. Amherst also has a low rate of response at 66%.

There are also lower response rates in Holyoke, where 62.1% of residents self-reported, and from the western part of Franklin County and the Berkshires. Behler said he knows that the Berkshires contain a number of secondary homes or rental homes, and that this could be a factor in low response rates from residential addresses.

The lowest self-response rates in Franklin County, based on the map, are in Heath, with a 34.7% self-response rate, and Monroe, at 41.4%. By contrast, among the towns with the highest self-response rates are Deerfield at 80.2%, Bernardston at 79.5% and Leverett at 78.8%.

The map, available at bit.ly/3i1vbrD, also breaks down what percentage of respondents answered online, and compares each response rate to those from 2010.

According to Behler, the importance of the census boils down to two key areas. Census statistics are used to determine the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives and to inform how billions of dollars in federal funding will be allocated by state, local and federal lawmakers annually for the next 10 years.

“It’s all based on formulas that use census data,” Behler said. “We get one opportunity every 10 years to do this. We’re not estimating, we’re actually counting every single person in the United States.”

To respond to the census online, visit 2020census.gov.

Staff writer Dusty Christensen contributed to this report.