Census 2020 Opens Up Online Amid COVID-19 Outbreak


It’s time to get out the count!

The 2020 census opened up electronically for the first time last week to allow people to begin filling it out online and by phone.

While Census Day isn’t until April 1, people living across the country are urged to fill out the questionnaire before then over the internet to avoid being visited by door knockers starting in mid-May.

The form became available to the public on March 12 and the last possible day to fill it out online, by phone or through the mail is July 31. 

From now until May 13, the emphasis will be on self-responding to the census, in hopes that there won’t be too much of a need for “Early Non-Response Follow-Up” volunteers to show up at people’s homes.

Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives J. Phillip Thompson and NYC Census 2020 Director Julie Menin called on New Yorkers to self-respond to the census once it comes out.

Mayor Bill de Blasio

“In a matter of days we need to make sure that every New Yorker is counted regardless of immigration status or where they live in any of the five boroughs,” said de Blasio. “I encourage everybody to make their voices be heard sooner rather than later by filling out the census online or by phone. Our resources for a better future are at stake and we don’t want to wait another 10 years for the next census.”

The reason filling out the census has been stressed so much lately: its results will determine how much federal funding states, services and programs will receive for the next 10 years. Beyond that, it also factors into the amount of representation each state gets to have in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The more New Yorkers who fill out the census, the more money the city receives for public education, healthcare, housing, roads and bridges, and so much more,” NYC Census officials said. “The census is for everyone, no matter one’s immigration or citizenship status, or housing situation, and all New Yorkers — no matter what language they speak or where or how they live — must be counted.”

But there is also the most basic significance of having the census to just know how many people are currently living in the country and in local communities, which can help with community organization, revitalization and betterment.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson

“The importance of counting every New Yorker cannot be overstated. Millions of dollars in federal funds are at stake for our schools, our roads, our hospitals, our housing,” Johnson said. “Trump and his administration wanted to intimidate us so that New York wouldn’t get an accurate count, but we are putting all our efforts into proving them wrong, together. I’m proud of the Council’s and the Mayor’s commitment of $40 million dollars to ensure a complete count — the largest investment of any city in the nation.”

Starting March 12, New Yorkers were able to complete the census form, including online and over the phone. Filling out the census is fast, easy and secure, and can be filled out in multiple languages. 

However, there has been a concern as of late about how the COVID-19 or the Novel Coronavirus outbreak can affect the census, especially the door knocking aspect. 

Even online completion of the census can take a hit if people without internet access are afraid of going to their local library branch to use a computer there.

NYC Census officials said in the absence of clarity from the federal government about how the U.S. Census Bureau will alter the administration of the 2020 Census given COVID-19, NYC Census 2020 will revamp its mobilization strategies, and continue to emphasize the critical importance of self-responding to the census, which is now easier than ever.