Field operations for Census 2020 are now paused for an additional two weeks, until April 15. The U.S. Census Bureau announced over the weekend that it is continuing the temporary suspension of all field operations to help slow the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

There have been other shifts in April for census data collection already due to the unique challenges surfacing with COVID-19.

In April census takers were expected to visit college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers and others who live among large groups of people. However, with college campuses closed in states around the country, those visits won’t happen. The Bureau says students in colleges and universities temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 virus will still be counted as part of this process. As for students who live off campus and are now at home, the Bureau said they should be counted at their school address, not their parents’ home. “Even if they are home on census day, April 1, they should be counted according to the residence criteria which states they should be counted where they live and sleep most of the time. We are asking schools to contact their students and remind them to respond,” the Bureau shared.

The census form did go live as planned, with the Bureau sending mailers to households beginning in March and launching the online form.

According to the latest data from the Bureau, as of Sunday, March 29, Michigan’s self-response rate to the census is 38.5%, higher than the national response rate of 33.1%. Of Michigan’s current response rate, nearly 33% of households have responded online.

The option of filling out the form online has become an important shift during this public health crisis. Anyone can respond to the census either online, by phone or by returning the paper questionnaire.

“Though the coronavirus has swiftly upended daily life for millions, completing the census is one of the most positive things people can do right now for their communities,” The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation shared in an article last week. “Together, we can ensure we have resources to address future emergencies and help our communities thrive.”

The Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA) which is leading the Nonprofits Complete Count Committee (NPCCC) shared on social media last week that the current crisis further demonstrates how critical it is to secure a complete count in the census. “It’s important to remember that the census data helps us to be prepared for the unexpected, especially during national emergencies such as the coronavirus, so that Michigan families and neighbors have access to the resources they need the most like Medicaid, MIChild and Medicare,” MNA said.

The Bureau says it will continue to evaluate all Census 2020 operations. In May, census takers around the U.S. are expected to visit households that have not yet responded to the census. The Bureau says they will continue to monitor the COVID-19 outbreak and “adjust census taker and survey operations as necessary in order to follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities.”

Go online now to fill out your census form today!

You also have the option of completing the questionnaire by phone. To begin, call 844-330-2020. Phone lines are open every day from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Census 2020 information will be used for the next ten years when government is making funding decisions for schools, hospitals, roads and other areas that effect so many. “Please take the time to go online today and help Otsego County residents get counted.This one thing will help our community for years to come. Thank you.”  Karin Beyer, Community Liaison, Otsego Community Foundation.