2020 Non-Response Follow Up, Local and Digital Outreach for Census 2020

By An Le, Amy Torres, Sina Uipi, Shomya Tripathy, Jessica Valdez and Amber Nguyen

The census is a vital data collecting tool that enables us to have data on communities to better serve them and provide them with the resources they need. It also gives minority groups a voice by allowing their members to be visible.

Although shelter-in-place policies amid COVID-19 have significantly limited educational and outreach efforts, many organizations across the nation remain committed to getting an accurate count of our community members. This blog discusses Non-Response Follow Up (NRFU) operations, how to identify census enumerators, and how local organizations are adapting their outreach plans in the midst of COVID-19.

How Has the Timeline of Census Operations Changed with the COVID-19 Pandemic?

With COVID-19 shelter in place policies, it has become difficult for organizations to reach undercounted Asian American Pacific Islanders with their outreach and community education plans. Although organizations anticipate low response rates to the census, they can take actions to minimize this effect. For instance, organizations can prepare communities for the Census Bureau’s Non-Response Follow Up (NRFU) operations.

How Can I Identify a Census Bureau Enumerator?

During NRFU, the Census Bureau employs enumerators to collect data from community residents.

What do enumerators look like? — Census takers will be outfitted with an official form of identification, a bag or laptop, and a letter. They will not ask for any information that is not already on the census form, such as driver’s license information, credit card and bank information, money, passwords, and social security numbers. If you want to check the legitimacy of an enumerator, you can contact your regional census center during work hours to confirm an enumerator is an official Census Bureau employee, who will then return at another date.

When will enumerators knock on my door? — As of now, enumerators will not start knocking on doors until the NRFU period, which is announced to begin on August 11, 2020 for most places. This period is a critical part of census operations; enumerators will help make sure the census counts those who did not complete census forms before August 11 and by October 31. If enumerators come to your door, they will likely visit between 8am-7pm and can make multiple attempts to reach people in your household.

Note: If enumerators cannot reach members in your household after multiple attempts, they may ask your landlord or your neighbors for more information. If you want to avoid having an enumerator come to your door, respond to the census as soon as possible by mail, over the phone, or online at my2020census.gov.

What will happen after an enumerator visits? — Once you have completed the census, your address will be removed from the visit list in real time!

What are some disruptions that organizations have faced with regard to census outreach?

Shomya Tripathy and Jessica Valdez of Asian Counseling Referral Service provided insights into how challenging it can be for organizations to maintain census support in Washington state, as most of their resources have shifted towards essential services. Many outreach events have also been suspended, forcing community engagement to become virtual or digital. As a result, it can be difficult to reach community members who do not have computer or internet access. This disruption has particularly made disseminating information about census language accessibility more challenging.

Given these COVID-19 restrictions, what strategies have organizations adopted to pivot their census outreach services?

Many organizations across the nation have developed a list of ways to continue reaching, educating, and organizing communities to participate in the 2020 Census.

To reach San Francisco community members — An Le described some alternative tactics that Advancing Justice-ALC and other organizations have adopted.

  • Stand-in for face-to-face meetings for hard to count ethnic communities that live in the same apartment buildings. Asian Refugees United plans to host Zoom meetings to recruit and train leaders who live in those apartment buildings. The goal is to equip leaders to conduct census presentations or knock on their neighbors’ doors to relay pertinent census information. Neighbors will already know and/or speak the same language as these trained leaders and thus establish a sense of trust.
  • Social media ad purchases and collaboration with popular influencers to promote census participation. Advancing Justice — ALC and AAPIs for Civic Empowerment Education Fund have done this tactic, where the goal is to identify which platforms hard to count communities frequently consume media and programming. One factor to consider is the age group specificity of target audiences.
  • Create targeted content, such as public service announcements for specific populations. One example from the Bay Area Filipino Complete Count Committee is they created an Instagram filter to target Filipino American college students. Factors to consider include content accessibility for hard-to-count populations and community members may have low literacy rates in their own language.
  • Phone banking, followed by text banking. Asian Pacific Environmental Network and VietRISE are two organizations that been coordinating phone banking as well as follow-up text banking to confirm community members have filled out their census form. One factor to consider is that these operations are limited to registered voters.
  • Host phone/online questionnaire assistance sessions in place of questionnaire assistance centers. Asian Health Services, International Children Action Network (ICAN), and Vietnamese Voluntary Foundation (VIVO) have done this by hosting phone or online sessions to assist community members with completing their census forms.
  • Enter strategic partnerships with schools. Organizations may reach out to any or all of the following: teachers’ unions, individual teachers, school administrations, and school district superintendents. Organizations can coordinate Census 2020 essay, poetry, photo, and art contests to educate youth about the census and encourage participation.

To reach New Yorkers — Amy Torres describes some alternative tactics CPC, a social services organization based in New York, has adopted.

Guest speakers for this webinar included An Le, 2020 Census Statewide Network Manager at Asian Americans Advancing Justice- Asian Law Caucus; Amy Torres, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC); Sina Uipi, Policy Associate at Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC); and Shomya Tripathy and Jessica Valdez, Director of Policy and Civic Engagement and Projects Specialist at Asian Counseling Referral Service, respectively.

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Advancing Justice – AAJC

Fighting for civil rights for all and working to empower #AsianAmericans to participate in our democracy.