MADISON (WKOW) -- The pandemic has disrupted many aspects of life over the past several months, but the 2020 Census must still go forward.
Every 10 years, United States citizens are asked to participate in the nationwide count of all the people who live in the country.
The census is required by law and the results are used to decide how hundreds of billions of dollars will be allocated every year for things like health clinics, transportation improvements and schools. It also informs Congress representation.
It's also used by businesses and companies to determine whether a certain town or neighborhood is the best place for them to open up a new grocery store or restaurant.
The Census Bureau did have to put field operations on hold when pandemic hit, such as visiting households that have a P.O. box at the post office as opposed to their own mailbox. The door to door follow up for people who have not yet responded to the census was supposed to begin in May, but was delayed until early August. This month, census takers will begin visiting homes in Wisconsin.
Across the country, more than 60 percent of households have responded. So far, there's around a 73 percent response rate in Madison, which means just under 30 percent of households will be getting some sort of reminder to respond, which includes door to door visits.
The bureau says it is going to great lengths to make sure everyone is counted, and counted safely.
One thing the bureau is doing to keep things safe is to train census takers to follow up with households by phone.
"It was always considered as an option for how census takers can reach households that haven't responded yet," said Sam Fettig, the Minnesota partnership coordinator for the Census Bureau. "But, in part due to the pandemic, that is definitely going to help."
If census takers do visit, Fettig said they will follow Centers for Disease Control and local health department guidelines, including wearing a mask and remaining socially distant.
"If a census taker does come to your door, and you'd rather not have them there, they will leave a note a notice of visit saying 'I'm with the Census Bureau, we need to get your household counted. Here's some ways you can do it,'" said Fettig.
Census takers are also going to be setting up shop at local businesses, like grocery stores and food pantries. They'll be there to remind people to answer the questionnaire and provide additional assistance.
"This is all geared towards getting a complete and accurate count of every person and towards getting people to respond themselves before it gets to the point of having census takers come door to door both for safety of our employees and the public," said Fettig.
Households that haven't responded will get an additional census questionnaire sent to their homes to give them a way to respond without getting a visit.
Another technique the bureau will use is sending an email to households in areas that have below a 50 percent response rate. The bureau estimates that that's about 20 million households. The email will come from email@example.com.
Click this link for more information on the 2020 Census and how to respond, if you haven't already.