Countdown for the Count

2020 Census Wrapping Up

by Jeremy Morrison, Inweekly

Every ten years, the United States government takes an official count of the country’s population. Currently, census workers are trying to wrap up the 2020 count.

“We’re moving right along,” said Marilyn Stephens, a regional Census manager for the 2020 Census.

In a normal census cycle, it’s an effort to get an accurate count. And this is year, with the country in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic, is not a normal cycle.

“We try to prepare for every eventuality,” Stephens said. “But we did not prepare for this.”

The issues presented by the coronavirus not withstanding, the federal government is aiming to complete the 2020 census by late September. Stephens stressed the importance of participating in the count, explaining how the government’s allocation of resources and representations is tethered to the Census results.

“We gained two seats in congress last cycle,” she said. “It gives us greater representation, it gives us a voice.”

Insofar as funding is concerned, the census count comes into play when the federal government determines how much money a given area receives for things like roads and schools. It’s used when calculating funds for services such as unemployment insurance, low-income home energy assistance, food assistance programs, WIC and SNAP programs and Pell grants, as well as for programs such as Meals on Wheels for seniors and free school breakfasts for students.

“For once every ten years we can take less than ten minutes to make sure we get our fair share,” said Stephens, in what sounds a little like a mantra, but isn’t, because this is: “Avoid the knock, respond today. That is our mantra.”

That’s how serious Census workers are about getting a complete count. Stephens said that starting Aug. 11 they will begin visiting the residence of people who have yet to respond. If the person isn’t home, they will attempt to conduct a proxy interview with a neighbor.

“The interview must be conducted outside,” Stephens said, adding that Census workers will also be wearing masks.

To forgo that knock, people have a few other options when it comes to responding to the Census. People can respond via the mail or by phone or online. More information can be found at

Currently, Escambia County has about a 61 percent participation rate.

“Which is excellent,” Stephens said. “It’s above the state average, slightly below the national average.”

Santa Rosa County, meanwhile, is a few points higher at 67.9 percent participation. By the end of September, Stephens is looking for something close to a 100 percent.

“That lets you know our workload,” she said. “We have to account for every household.”