Stalled by COVID-19, Census Workers Seek Out Hard-to-Reach Americans

Roz Brown | Public News Service
In Nevada, undocumented immigrants comprised 11% of Nevada's workforce in 2016. Photo Credit: Fran Hogan / Unsplash

LAS VEGAS – Once every decade, the U.S. Constitution mandates that every person be counted as part of the census, but so far, nearly 40% of American households have not completed the 2020 form.

The coronavirus pandemic delayed the start of this year’s count, and many hard-to-reach populations haven’t participated — including lower-income households, people of color and young people.

Cathy Lacy, who directs the U.S. Census Bureau’s Denver and Dallas regional centers, said expanded options allow people to go online, call the bureau or complete the paper questionnaire sent to their home.

“This is an essential activity for the federal government and for the local communities, and we only do this once a decade,” she said. “So, once a decade, we ask people to invest 10 minutes into their future.”

Last Friday, the Nevada attorney general joined a coalition of states in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s memorandum to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted in this year’s census. Nevada has the most undocumented immigrants of any state, accounting for 7% of the U.S. total in 2016.

Lacy said census data is used to allocate more than $1.5 trillion in federal funds to programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Head Start, as well as schools, hospitals and infrastructure projects.

“If people drive on any highway or road,” she said, “it’s either funded through federal funds or they use the census data in order to plan for the building of that road or that highway.”

In a surprise move last week, the Trump administration asked that $448 million be set aside in the next coronavirus relief package to speed up the census count. The move alarmed critics, who believe the administration wants the data to facilitate political reapportionment by year’s end. They warn that rushing the process could result in an inaccurate population count.

Undocumented immigrant data by state is online at

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