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Census Bureau will distribute packets to front doors in Sumter this week

Sumter residents urged to respond so county will receive more federal money over 10 years

BY SHELBIE GOULDING
shelbie@theitem.com
Posted 6/4/20

As of Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau, in coordination with federal, state and local health officials, started dropping off 2020 Census questionnaire packets at the front doors of some South Carolina households this week for areas where the majority …

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Census Bureau will distribute packets to front doors in Sumter this week

Sumter residents urged to respond so county will receive more federal money over 10 years

Posted

As of Monday, the U.S. Census Bureau, in coordination with federal, state and local health officials, started dropping off 2020 Census questionnaire packets at the front doors of some South Carolina households this week for areas where the majority of households do not receive mail at their physical address.

The Census Bureau will deliver 2020 Census invitations and paper questionnaires at the front doors of roughly 61,300 households in South Carolina, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This tactic is crucial to ensure a complete and accurate count of all communities in the state, which helps guide hundreds of billions of dollars in public and private sector spending per year.

With COVID-19, the Census Bureau had to suspend all fieldwork in its operations starting March 18, including Sumter's operations.

"What happened because of COVID-19, our area census office, which is in Columbia, suspended all operations," said Jason Stoddard, project manager. "There's no good time for a pandemic. We had all these significant plans leading up to April 1 and for all of April."

With operations starting back up, Stoddard said the Sumter 2020 Census team should be back out in the community sometime in June or July in order to get an accurate count.

Each person not counted in local communities means a loss of about $1,500 of federal assistance each year, or $15,000 over 10 years until the next census, Stoddard said. About $675 billion in federal funding is distributed to states and local communities each year based on census data.

As of Wednesday, the current national self-response rate is 60.6%, South Carolina's is 55.4%, and Sumter County's is 56.2%. The 2010 census had a self-response rate of 67% in Sumter County, and Stoddard made it a goal for Sumter's self-response rate to be more than the last census' final percentage.

Temporary field staff have been trained to observe all social distancing protocols and will wear government-provided personal protective equipment for their safety and the safety of the public as they continue operations, according to the Census Bureau. The operation is considered contactless and follows the most current federal health and safety guidelines.

Stoddard said the local team will most likely resume knocking on doors for in-person responses in August if residents don't self-respond.

"Everything's been kind of extended due to the coronavirus," Stoddard said. "Right now, according to the Census Bureau, they plan to do non-response follow-ups on Aug. 11."

The self-response phase - completed by phone, mail or online - was scheduled for March 12-July 31, but the dates have been extended to March 12-Oct. 31, according to Stoddard. The non-response followup was scheduled for May 13-July 31, but the dates were extended to Aug. 11-Oct. 31.

People are strongly encouraged to respond promptly to the 2020 Census using the ID number included in the questionnaire packet. Responding with a census ID or the paper questionnaire helps ensure the best count of their community. People can respond online, by phone or by using the paper form in the packet.

Although there have been date extensions in operations, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Sumter 2020 Census team are still on track with delivering an accurate count to the president by Dec. 31.

People can respond to the 2020 Census online at my2020census.gov or by phone at (844) 330-2020 (English) or (844) 468-2020 (Spanish). The response takes no more than five minutes to complete.