If someone in your household has not filled out a 2020 census form yet, you may find a masked worker from the U.S. Census Bureau outside your front door soon.
That could be as soon as July 30 for people living in Hawaii, North Dakota, Puerto Rico and certain other areas of the country, the bureau announced Wednesday.
With outbreaks of the coronavirus continuing to ravage many parts of the U.S., the bureau has taken on a phased approach to its largest and most expensive field operation for the constitutionally mandated head count of every person living in the U.S.
As of Wednesday, roughly four out of 10 homes nationwide have not yet participated in the count either online, over the phone or through the mail.
Some parts of the country are getting early in-person visits before the nationwide rollout of door knocking set for Aug. 11.
Other locations that are set to join the bureau's third phase of door knocking on July 30 include parts of:
- central Colorado
- western Connecticut
- northern Illinois
- northwestern Indiana
- the Indianapolis metro area
- most of Massachusetts
- most of Maryland
- central New Jersey
- the Buffalo, N.Y. metro area
- northeastern Ohio
- western Pennsylvania
- the Harrisburg, Pa. metro area
- western Washington
- eastern Wisconsin
While this once-a-decade government exercise is largely off the radar of many in the public, the results of the census are expected to have an outsized impact on daily life in the U.S. for the next decade. A state's population count, as determined through the census, is used to apportion its share of seats in Congress, votes in the Electoral College and an estimated $1.5 trillion a year in federal tax dollars that pay for Medicare, Medicaid and other public services.
After the pandemic forced the bureau to push back the start of in-person interviews with unresponsive households from May, it began sending out door knockers Thursday for the first phase of the operation, which covers Idaho, Maine and West Virginia, as well as parts of southeastern Louisiana, northern Missouri and northwestern Oklahoma.
On July 23, door knocking is set to start in parts of eastern Connecticut, southern Indiana, most of Kansas, central Pennsylvania and northern Virginia around Crystal City, plus in Tacoma, Wash., and surrounding areas.
The bureau's officials say all of these locations were selected based mainly on logistics, including whether it's safe enough for workers to try to conduct socially distanced interviews outside people's homes and if the bureau could supply enough face masks, hand sanitizer and gloves to its local field staff.
The bureau plans to keep collecting responses through the end of October.
But it remains unclear exactly when it will deliver the results of the count.
Under current federal law, the latest state population numbers are due to the president by Dec. 31. Because of the pandemic, the bureau's officials have asked Congress to pass four-month extensions to their deadlines.
Although so far only Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced bills to extend deadlines, the bureau's top official for the count remains optimistic that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle understand the need for more time to process the new census data.
"It's not as though some portion of one party is adamantly against that," Al Fontenot, associate director for the 2020 census, said earlier this month during an online panel organized by the Population Association of America. "It seems they just have to get it in the right bill with the right constraints attached to it and get it passed."