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More Census Workers To Return To Rural Areas In 9 States To Leave Forms

The Census Bureau says it will continue its relaunch of limited field operations for the 2020 census next week in some rural communities in nine states.
Matt Rourke
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The Census Bureau says it is continuing the gradual relaunch of limited field operations for the 2020 census next week in nine states where the coronavirus pandemic forced the hand-delivery of paper forms in rural areas to be suspended in mid-March.

On May 13, some local census offices in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington are scheduled to restart that fieldwork, according to an updated schedule the bureau published on its website Friday.

All workers are expected to be trained in CDC guidance in preventing the spread of COVID-19, and besides a new reusable face mask for every 10 days worked and a pair of gloves for each work day, the bureau has ordered 2 ounces of hand sanitizer for each census worker conducting field operations, the bureau tells NPR in an email.

The announcement means more households that receive their mail at post office boxes or drop points are expected to find paper questionnaires left outside their front doors soon. In areas where access to the online census form at can be spotty, paper forms help ensure that all homes can participate in the once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident.

The results are used to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets through 2030. They also guide the redrawing of voting districts and the distribution of an estimated $1.5 trillion a year in federal funding for schools, roads and other public services in local communities.

The Census Bureau also announced on Friday that fingerprinting for newly hired census workers will pick up again next week in and around Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, Ore., and Pittsburgh. With responses from close to 86 million households bringing the national self-response rate to just over 58% as of Thursday, the federal government is relying on staffing up with enough door knockers to complete the count. They're currently scheduled to make in-person visits to unresponsive homes starting in August.

Last month, Census Bureau officials asked Congress to consider pushing back the legal deadlines for delivering census data used to reapportion House seats and reshape voting maps by four months because of the delays brought on by the coronavirus.

In a letter to U.S. Senate leaders released on Friday, more than a dozen Democratic senators led by Brian Schatz of Hawaii are calling for the next COVID-19 relief package to include more funding and requirements for the Census Bureau "to keep both field workers and the public safe while conducting this constitutionally required enumeration."

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Hansi Lo Wang (he/him) is a national correspondent for NPR reporting on the people, power and money behind the U.S. census.