Census Outreach plans ‘pivot’ with Covid-19

March 20 2020

Daily Republic By Todd R. Hansen

FAIRFIELD — Plans for staffed information kiosks and public events as key Census 2020 outreach efforts are in flux – both critical pieces to how local census officials were going to connect with people who have traditionally been difficult to reach.

That includes families with young children, populations that do not speak English and, of course, the homeless.

“We have had to pivot a bit as you can imagine,” Robert Burris, the president and chief executive officer of Solano Economic Development Corp. – and the point man for Census 2020 in Solano County, said in a phone interview Thursday.

“With our current Covid-19 situation, we have had to pull back on that,” he said.

The U.S. Census Bureau has suspended all field work. At this point, that was groundwork for the planned door-to-door visits to those households that did not fill out the census online or by mail.

Those documents are going out to homes now.

The door-to-door campaign was scheduled for late April or early May, Burris said.

So instead of a more direct contact approach to reach specifically the hard-to-count populations, Burris said the plan is to increase social and general media campaigns with a strong message of what the census means.

At risk, Burris said, is $250 million in federal funds to Solano County through 2030 if only 5 percent of the local population is not counted.

For each person not counted, the state could lose $1,000 to $2,000 in federal funding for each year over the next decade.

The state could also lose congressional representation if the population count misses the mark, and that means less influence on decision-making in Washington, D.C.

The data collected also will provide the foundation for programs, policies and other priorities through 2030.

Burris said he expects the strategies to shift as the response to Covid-19 continues to evolve – and as recent weeks have shown, the changes can happen rapidly.

“So I guess we will take this by a week-by-week basis on how we approach this,” Burris said.

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