Adding it up: 2020 Census continues amid pandemic

Drew Butler

While the official 2020 census day was officially yesterday, anyone who has not yet filled out their form still has the opportunity to participate. Because federal spending dollars are distributed based on population, it remains crucial that everyone get counted.

Ari James, a member of the 2020 Census Complete Count Committee, said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced the census bureau to rework some of their original plans. By the end of February census takers had already started going door to door in some of the most rural areas of the country, but they have now modified the process.

“We had so many nonprofit partners here locally who had planned to talk about the census at events they were planning to hold,” James said. “They were also going to have information available to share with the people served by their programs, but now some of those partners are not able to be in physical contact with their people.”

James said the committee is now looking into the programs that are still operating to make sure they have census information available. He is in the process of contacting organizations that provide food boxes and free meals to children to ask them to include the information in their packaging.

James then shared a personal story that exemplifies why the census is so important. He was recently looking at the information collected from the census held in the early 20th Century and found out information about his family that he previously did not know.

James looked up his great-great grandmother on the 1920 census. One of the questions asked was whether participants could read and write. Though her husband was listed as literate, neither she nor her two sons who were 11 and 13 at the time could read.

“For me to be as passionate about education and literacy as I am, seeing that gave me even more motivation to complete the census,” James said. “That’s not a question they are asking this year, but think about how much money our community lost out on in the 2010 census because less than 70% of our population was counted. We only received 70% of the funds we could have if everyone had participated.”

James pointed out these extra funds could have been used on education programs to prevent future generations from repeating the past.

“If our children aren’t able to read or write well, they won’t have the skills they need to get good jobs and create a better future,” James said. “My grandmother’s story just made it a lot more personal.”

Anyone who has not yet filled out their census form can complete the process online at