COVID-19 delays census outreach


ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) – The 2020 census is already a huge undertaking, even before throwing a wrench into the work in the form of a pandemic. Despite the challenges, and the changes, people are still ready to make sure the census happens.

Jay Hardaway is part of a Chamber of Commerce group that promotes the census in Abilene. He explained, “It was hard anyway, but it’s been made much harder by the canceling of public gatherings and things like that.”

Those ways of getting the word out to the public are gone, another victim in the flood of cancellations in the wake of a pandemic. That puts even more emphasis on the importance of the door-to-door census takers.

“It’s typically the enumerators that are the best at getting those people counted”, said Hardaway, speaking about low response areas and hard to count populations. “They actually go to a person’s house and ask them the questions and do it all right there.”

Many groups face the same challenge of reaching out to those who are harder to count. One such group is the Hispanic Leadership Council, who have had to postpone events designed to explain the importance of the census.

HLC President Sammy Garcia said, “Unfortunately we were going to have a census party that, just because of everything, had to postpone. We’re still wanting to do that. We’re just on a hold pattern right now.”

That outreach is important because it can boost numbers from the traditionally underrepresented Hispanic community, who can be reluctant to submit their census.

“They’re very nervous that anything they put down, or hand out, or give, is going to come back and be used against them”, said Garcia. “Some of these people are afraid of being deported.”

That fear is understandable, but unwarranted. Federal law prevents the results from being shared, and no person will be deported based on their answers. In the meantime, the outreach and promotion are still planned, but they may come a bit later in the year.

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