Census workers begin going door-to-door Tuesday
Posted August 10, 2020 8:30 p.m. EDT
Updated August 11, 2020 12:04 p.m. EDT
Only 59 percent of households in North Carolina have completed their census forms. A small army of census workers, known as numerators, will fan out across Wake and other area counties, starting Tuesday, to follow up with the remaining 41 percent of households.
Census participation is mandatory under federal law every 10 years, and Wake County Commissioner Vickie Adamson, who chairs the county's census effort, said being counted is important.
"There’s about $675 billion worth of federal funds that’s distributed based on the census data," Adamson said. "The more people we get counted, the more we get of that, and that’s everything from Title I money for schools to housing money to FEMA money to our CARES Act money."
The census also determines political representation for the next decade.
"We could potentially pick up another congressional seat [in North Carolina] during this census, and of course, we’ll use this data in 2021 to redraw all district maps," Adamson said. "That’s everybody from the school board, the county commission to state lawmakers and congressional districts."
Wake County has the third-highest response rate in the state, trailing only Union and Orange counties, but it's still only 68 percent, she said.
"Our goal had been 82 percent, and in 2010, it was a 79 percent self-response rate," she said.
Census workers will ask only for demographic information – who lives in a household, their ages, genders, race and ethnicity, how household members are related to each other and whether the house is owned or rented. They will never ask for financial information, and they also aren't asking about citizenship status.
"Credit card, bank account, Social Security number – they never ask for any of that information. So, if somebody is asking you for that, don’t give it," Adamson said.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, numerators are taking special precautions this year.
They won't try to go inside anyone's home. Rather, they will knock on the front door and step back to give at least 6 feet of separation. They also will wear masks and gloves.
Also important, to distinguish themselves from scammers, they will have an official U.S. Census 2020 ID with a watermark on it and will be carrying a canvas bag that also says U.S. Census 2020.
"By October 2019, we already had people knocking on doors saying they were census workers, trying to get financial data, so they’re out there," Adamson said of scammers.
The numerators keep knocking again and again to get a response from every household before the census ends Sept. 30. They are even empowered to ask neighbors about household data for homes where they cannot get a response, Adamson said.
The best way to avoid that situation, she said, is to go to 2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020 toll-free and fill out a census survey.
"If you have the form, you can still send it in. Unfortunately, that might not get processed before the door knock happens," she said.