The Transylvania Times -

COVID-19 Impact Sees Census Moved To Online -Brevard NC


Last updated 4/20/2020 at 12:33pm

The U.S. Census Bureau commenced its decennial survey of the population in March, but its field operations have been halted, deadlines extended and method of response has been moved online due to COVID-19.

“We sent out initial invitations between March 12 and 20, so every household in the country received an invitation, which includes a census ID and link to respond online,” said a Census Bureau public affairs representative.

The survey takes about five minutes to complete.

As of April 13, over 70 million households have responded, according to the bureau, representing over 48 percent of all households in America.

The last census taken was in 2010, and it involved the field operation of door-to-door surveys in some areas.

Once the surveys are mailed out, the deadline is usually July 31, but it has been extended to Oct. 31.

For now, there will still be a team sent out to follow up with people who haven’t responded and that will occur from Aug. 11 to Oct. 31, “if it’s safe to do so,” the representative said.

The 2020 Census is open for self-response online at http://www.2020, over the phone by calling the number provided in the invitation and by paper through the mail.

To process the massive intake, bureau operations are divided into regions. The headquarters are in Suitland-Silver Hill, Md., with regional offices in the New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver and Atlanta regions.

“Beyond that, we also have local area census offices distributed in every state, so it goes from headquarters to regional offices, and then the regional offices are in charge of the local area census offices that are normally the ones that deal with the field operations and census taking at the local level,” the representative said.

The deadline for completion on processing the entirety of the data and delivering it to Congress is Dec. 3, but that has been extended to April 30, 2021.

Reasons for collecting the census data include seat allocation for the U.S. House of Representatives based on the population of the states and the districts of the representative.

The census data also assists in providing information on where to build and maintain schools, hospitals, transportation infrastructure, and police and fire departments.

Transylvania County Manager Jaime Laughter said the census data is important because it determines the amount of federal tax dollars that come to a community, which go to fund “education, health care and other important needs.”

“Most citizens pay federal income tax, and if the count is not accurate, those funds go to the jurisdictions that reflect the higher population,” Laugh-ter said. “This can be particularly challenging in a community like ours, where part-time residents claim their permanent status elsewhere, because when those calculations are completed, the funding goes to those other places to support those federally funded infrastructures, even though the seasonal influx requires meeting some of those same needs.

“Some of those services are provided through county government in North Carolina because counties are charged with providing essential services, including social services, elections, public health, public education and emergency services, including law enforcement, emergency management, etc. Sometimes it is federal funding distributed through the state on census counts and sometimes it is allotments from the state that are using census figures as baselines, such as to determine how many school-aged children live in a county.”

The census data is used in other ways, such as to determine policy decisions and other funding streams on a state and federal level.

“The census helps determine voting districts and is even being used now as federal and state leaders attempt to model COVID-19 spread and plan for resource responses,” Laughter said. “All of these reasons make it very important that we have an accurate count in our community.”

She said it also identifies parts of the population that are at high risk of being undercounted, including preschool-aged children, minorities and non-English speakers.

Jason Stewart, the county’s planning and community development director, said the census directly impacts the allocation of $16.3 billion annually in federal resources to North Carolina.

“A single missed person who is not counted is almost equivalent to a forfeited $16,000 in funding for North Carolina over a 10-year period,” Stewart said. “An undercount could sig-nificantly affect the distribution of federal funds at the state and local level as it relates to education, housing, health care and economic development. Inaccurate counts lead to a distorted picture of the make-up of our community and will result in a re-misallocation of resources for Transylvania County. Achieving the most accurate count possible would help direct resources and representation to Transylvania County at a level that corresponds with the number of people here. Also, North Carolina is projected to gain an additional seat in Congress, assuming there is an accurate count.”

Is It Illegal To Not Fill Out The Census?

According to the bureau, the census law (Title 13, U.S. Code, Section 224), “coupled with the Sentencing Reform Act of 1982 (Title 18, Sections 3551, 3559 and 3571), a penalty of up to $5,000 can be given for failure to report, and one for up to $10,000 for intentionally providing false infor-mation.”

According to court documents, in 1960 William F. Rickenbacker was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York for refusing to answer a schedule entitled “Household Questionnaire for the 1960 Census of Population and Housing.”

The judge imposed a suspended sentence of 60 days imprisonment, fined the defendant $100 and placed him on probation for one day.

Rickenbacker cited “invasion of privacy” because, he said, the questionnaire “went beyond the actual enumeration directed in the Constitution, and was requesting the type of home, nature of relationships with family members, ethnicity and financial situations.”

The court disagreed.

In 1972 Hawaii resident William Steele refused to answer the census “based on constitutional grounds,” according to court documents, and was convicted and fined $50 for not completing the questionnaire. He argued that he had been singled out for prosecution because he led a protest march against the census and distributed pamphlets entitled “Big Brother is Snooping.”

Court documents report that there was also a radio station in Hawaii at the time broadcasting editorials speaking against the questionnaire part of the census.

“Census authorities had complained to the Federal Communications Comm-ission about them because they ‘were calculated to incite people to subvert the census law,’” the court document said.

There were three other media figures in Hawaii at the time speaking against the questionnaire in the census.

“Leland Gray, the regional technician for the census in Hawaii, described the four as ‘hard core resisters,’” the document said. “He ordered his staff to compile special background dossiers on them, a discretionary procedure not followed with any other offenders.”

Steele attempted to prove that others in Hawaii had provided no more information than he had.

Steele also argued that, because he was in violation of the Honolulu Zoning Code in having “more than five unrelated people living in a single-family dwelling,” his answer on the questionnaire would be self-incriminating, which violates U.S. Code Section 8(c): “In no case shall information furnished under the authority of this section be used to the detriment of the persons to whom such information relates.”

An appeals court agreed with both arguments and threw out his conviction.

Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution mandates that the U.S. conduct a count of its population every 10 years, and it conducted its first census in 1790.

From 1790 to today, the population has grown from 3.9 million to 330 million, with 230 years of collected data.

In 1810, Congress added the collection of manufacturing data to the census, which expanded on the first questions about agricultural data.

According to the bureau, “In 1840, Congress added the collection of governments’ data about schools and school attendance. Beginning in 1850, marshals listed the name of every free person on the census schedule, and the number of demographic inquiries grew to include questions, such as those collecting data about individuals’ profession, place of birth, and marital status.”

The Census Act of 1880 replaced the U.S. Marshals and their assistants who conducted the censuses since 1790 with specially hired and trained enumerators, and they collected an amount of data that took a decade to complete for publication.

By 1890, 100 years after the U.S. conducted its first census, it was reported that the U.S. had grown from 3.9 million to 63 million.

In 1902, Congress made the U.S. Census Bureau a permanent agency, which allowed for planning and mid-decade surveys such as the “censuses of manufacturers” and cen-suses of war commodities during WW1.

After the 1929 Stock Market Crash and at the beginning of the Great Depression, the 1930 Census included both a standard questionnaire that requested demographic, citizenship, occupation, employment and veteran status data, as well as a supplemental questionnaire that collected additional data.

The 1940 Census initiated “statistical sampling,” asking 5 percent of the population – people whose names fell on the schedule’s “sample lines” – questions such as parents’ place of birth, native language, veterans status; and for women, how many times one has been married, age of first marriage and number of children born.

Following censuses added sample questions, such as means of transportation, occupation five years ago and ancestry.

In 2005 the American Community Survey, a data-collecting agency independent of the Census Bureau, replaced the questionnaires with a 10-question form that was used in the 2010 census, which counted circa 309 million in the U.S., 33,090 in Transylvania County and 7,609 in Brevard.


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