The coronavirus pandemic is disrupting the 2020 census, prompting the Census Bureau to delay field work while extending the amount of time Americans have to respond to the decennial count of the U.S. population.

Americans now have until August 14 to answer the questionnaire by mail, over the phone or online, a new option available for the first time this year. With so many Americans quarantined at home during the COVID-19 crisis, there’s a drive to get Americans to respond using the new online option.

Now that Americans have more time to respond, the Census Bureau has also delayed the dates on which it will send field workers to the homes of Americans who don’t respond to their mailed invitations to participate.

U.S. Census Sample Mail Form 2020
Hawaii organizations want to assure that as many as possible are counted in the 2020 Census. Getty Images/iStockphoto

In-person delivery of census forms to people living in rural areas without home delivery has been delayed by two weeks to the end of April. Plans to count people who are homeless has been pushed back four weeks to the end of April.

Adjustments to the Census Bureau’s schedule are not, however, expected to delay two important dates: the delivery of the final census counts to President Trump on Dec. 31 and the delivery of redistricting data to states on April 1, 2021.

Redistricting data is used to determine the number seats each state is entitled to in the U.S. House of Representatives. This data also influences the drawing of geographic boundaries that decide who elects representatives to government bodies including state legislatures, county or city councils and school boards.

Advocates say an accurate census count is also important because it affects funding for public services and community planning.

As of March 30, 28.9% of Hawaii’s households have responded to the 2020 Census. The nationwide response rate is 34.7%.

Honolulu County has Hawaii’s highest participation rate at 34.1%. Hawaii County is has the lowest response rate at 15.5%.

With so many college students displaced from their dorm rooms and off-campus apartments, the Census Bureau is urgently reminding Americans that college students should be counted as residents at their usual college address, even if the coronavirus outbreak has forced them to return home for the summer or seek a temporary alternative living arrangement.

Parents should not count their college-enrolled children as members of their household unless they live at home during the regular school year.

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