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U.S. Census Bureau, Partners Find Creative Ways to Promote 2020 Census Amid COVID-19

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For years, the U.S. Census Bureau and local and national organizations across the country have been planning for the 2020 Census and organizing events, media and advertising outreach, and activities to spread the word about the importance of responding to the once-a-decade count of everyone who lives in the United States.

Then came COVID-19.

In mid-March, just as new options like responding to the census online became available, cities and states started implementing social distancing guidelines to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

In many communities, stay-at-home orders went into effect, workplaces emptied and schools closed. Across the country, in-person events and meetings were canceled.

Those working on the 2020 Census had to think creatively to continue to encourage people to respond, shifting to more virtual and digital engagement.

Webinars and teleconferences, Facebook Live events, and Twitter chats have replaced in-person events.

Webinars and teleconferences, Facebook Live events, and Twitter chats have replaced in-person events. Some partners are supplementing email outreach with text messages and phone banks, and many have added resources, toolkits and graphics to their websites and social media channels since they can no longer engage in person with their constituencies.

The Census Bureau itself has gone virtual, too, with video updates on national response rates from Director Steven Dillingham from his home, radio and satellite media tours with census executives from their homes, and an AMA (Ask Me Anything) interview on Reddit.com with Deputy Director Ron Jarmin.

To help parents, caregivers and teachers with online learning, the Census Bureau’s Statistics in Schools program developed new toolkits with 2020 Census resources. The toolkits include free worksheets and materials for students of all ages – pre-K, elementary, middle, and high school.

Local, National Partners Ramp Up Virtual Outreach

Nearly 400,000 local and national partners continue to promote response to the 2020 Census but in new ways. For instance:

  • Partners such as the Salvation Army, Emgage USA and Feeding America are distributing 2020 Census promotional materials along with meals, groceries and other goods.
  • The Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance hosted a virtual census dance party.
  • A collaboration of historically African American fraternities and sororities known as the “Divine Nine” is using social media to fuel 2020 Census promotion efforts. The “Divine Nine” also participated in a 2020 Census “Get Out the Count” video challenge.
  • Madison, Wisconsin’s, local complete count committee hosted a series of “Census Couch Parties” via Facebook Live/Zoom showcasing Madison’s diverse demographics and cultures. One of the couch parties had 1,000 participants.
  • The California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, whose members are Vietnamese immigrant nail salon owners and employees, partnered with the Census Bureau to produce a series of one-hour programs aired on Vietnamese radio stations in cities in California, Georgia, Texas, and Hawaii.
  • In April, the University of Maryland’s Office of Community Engagement hosted a “Count Me In” Instagram Live series featuring Q & A discussions, special guests and musical performances every Wednesday at 5 p.m. to encourage 2020 Census participation in Maryland.
  • On Census Day (April 1), Univision’s Uforia released “Cuenta Conmigo” (Count With Me), a musical anthem featuring top artists encouraging participation in the 2020 Census.

New 2020 Census Advertisements Roll Out

The Census Bureau already had a national advertising campaign in motion, but produced and broadcast new ads beginning in late March and early April to reflect the impact of the pandemic on Americans’ way of life.

Three new TV advertisements aimed at increasing online response focus on the work of first responders, and the importance of working together as a community to shape our future, starting with responding to the 2020 Census.

One of the ads, known as “Recovery,” focuses on people’s desire to see family and friends again. Walmart is running “Recovery” on its TV display walls in stores across the country.

“We are continuing to encourage everyone who hasn’t responded to respond to ensure that their community is accurately counted,” Dillingham said. “We have been adapting our campaign with new messages on pizza boxes and adding more advertising in grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, and other locations where people are going even when stay-at-home orders exist.”

The Census Bureau also expanded advertising across radio, digital, TV and print into the summer to reach more people staying at home and conducted targeted outreach activities in markets with historically undercounted populations and multicultural audiences.

Census takers began visiting households that have not yet responded to the census in late July. They are also calling people by phone to collect responses. All census takers wear masks and are following CDC guidelines for social distancing. People are encouraged to cooperate with census takers who visit or call, but they can still respond on their own now online at 2020census.gov, by phone at 844-330-2020 or by mail.

More than 78% of Americans have responded to the 2020 Census so far, either on their own or with a Census taker, according to the Census Bureau.



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