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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 proposes 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 operation “Mobile Questionnaire Assistance” or MQA.

The MQA Operation is not one of the 35 operations required to execute the 2020 Census, but instead is a sub-operation 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 Internet Self Response Operation. Given that the MQA operation was proposed and planned late in the cycle, management believes a project plan with operational details will help ensure the success of this operation.

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 twelve 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 operation, not the Partner QACs, as the Census Bureau does not oversee Partner centers. Partner QACs will not be staffed by Census Bureau personnel or utilize Census Bureau equipment. Partnership Specialists will provide guidance to Partners who want to establish QACs.

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