Tuesday, July 14, 2020

East Lansing, MSU respond to COVID-19's impact on 2020 census

March 31, 2020
<p>The Lansing Capitol building on Sept. 19, 2019. </p>

The Lansing Capitol building on Sept. 19, 2019.

Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

The COVID-19 outbreak has had an impact on the 2020 census. The U.S. Census Bureau delayed the count deadline by two weeks, and suspended field operations for two weeks out of concerns for its employees.

The public received notices to participate in the census in the mail last week. People can fill out the form online, by phone or by mail. The bureau recommends that people participate online because of COVID-19.

East Lansing Census 2020 Complete Count Committee intern and social relations and policy senior Ragine Head commented on the political impact of the census.

"It is everyone's constitutional right to participate and respond to the census. Census data is used to allocate seats in the House of Representatives," Head said.

Michigan State students living on campus are counted through the university as part of the Census Bureau's Group Quarters Operation. In addition to college dormitories, this operation also includes nursing homes, group homes, halfway houses and prisons, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As of March 29, 37.3% of East Lansing residents have responded to the census, according to self-response rate data on 2020census.gov. The final census self-response total for the city during the last census was 76.4%. Starting May 28, enumerators will visit the households of those who have yet to complete the census. They were initially scheduled for field operations May 13.

MSU's undergraduate and graduate student governments sent an email out to students March 25 addressing COVID-19's impact on the census.

In the email, they said it's important for students to be counted in the community they live in for the majority of the year.

"So, even if you just decided to head out of town due to the coronavirus emergency, you'll need to be counted in the campus community," the email said.

East Lansing Census 2020 Complete Count Committee member Amy Schlusler stressed the importance of an accurate census.

"In terms of the benefits to individuals for completing the form, it is critical that persons indicate where they are living so that municipalities such as East Lansing have access to federally funded local and regional programs," Schlusler said via email.

These programs include transportation grants for the Capital Area Transportation Authority, or CATA, pell grants for college students and community development block grants, which will fund improvements on streets, sidewalks and parks.

Federal funding of approximately $1,800 per person per year will be allocated to municipalities because of the census. That is $18,000 per person over the next decade, which will be when the next census occurs, Schlusler said.

In addition to determining the seats in Congress, census data is also used for drawing boundaries for legislative and school districts, Head said.

As for completing the census, Schlusler said it should take less than 10 minutes.

"The census form itself this year is going to be extremely easy," she said. "It is actually going to ask less personal information than most social media posts actually ask of you when you're setting up accounts."

All 12 questions on the census can be seen here. The bureau still plans on turning in the final count to the president on Dec. 31.

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