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Purpose and Scope of the MQA Operation

The Census Bureau proposed a Mobile Response Initiative in response to the Joint Explanatory Statement accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 (P.L. 116-6). The Mobile Response Initiative proposed to incorporate the use of technology to provide readily accessible ways for people to respond to the census. The highly mobile locations gave way to naming the program “Mobile Questionnaire Assistance” or MQA.

The MQA program is not one of the 35 operations required to execute the 2020 Census, but instead is a suboperation of the Internet Self-Response (ISR) operation. While MQA branches across multiple operations, it most closely aligns with ISR; this decision is outlined in the Memorandum for The Record dated November 26, 2019, with a subject of decision to add Mobile Questionnaire Assistance as a suboperation of the Internet Self-Response operation. Given that the MQA program was proposed and planned late in the cycle, management believes a project plan with operational details will help ensure the success of this program.

The Census Bureau will work with partners across the United States to identify key locations with prominent visibility in areas with low self-response rates. Possible locations include grocery stores and markets, houses of worship before and after services, community festivals, public transit hubs, libraries, community centers, and other locations where people naturally congregate. Initially, the MQA locations will be determined based on 2020 projected self-response rates. As households submit responses, real-time response rates will drive the MQA locations. Because this effort is not tied to specific physical locations, MQA staff can dynamically deploy to locations where they are most needed. MQA staff will help respondents answer questions and directly access the census questionnaire on Census Bureau-issued mobile devices in English, or in one of 12 non-English languages, or call for assistance. In addition, MQA staff will also have language assistance guides for 59 non-English languages.

The Census Bureau anticipates certain local and national partners will want to open their own Questionnaire Assistance Centers (“Partner QACs”) to promote the 2020 Census in their areas. This project plan only covers the Census Bureau’s MQA program, not the Partner QACs, as the Census Bureau does not oversee partner centers. Partner QACs will not be staffed by Census Bureau personnel or use Census Bureau equipment. Partnership specialists will provide guidance to partners who want to establish QACs.

Updated Purpose and Scope of the MQA Program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:

The modified MQA program includes a two-pronged approach.

  1. Staff MQA sites in places where people visit when leaving home (as opposed to large public events), promoting and assisting with self-response. (Note that this does not include providing devices to attendees, as originally planned.)
  2. Engage in activities that drive people to respond in the lowest responding neighborhoods.

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