The U.S. Census Bureau has ramped up its field operations again – trying to get an accurate count of Missouri’s most remote and rural communities via hand delivery of 2020 Census paper forms. John Shikles – with the governor’s office – oversees the Census in the state. He says Missouri is more diverse than people might think and a challenge is reaching the rural areas.
“Those rural areas, this time around, with internet response – it’s been difficult to capture some of those responses because there are connectivity issues. There are a lot of people who just still are not comfortable giving information online when they would otherwise be okay with sending in a paper Census form. That mindset seems to exist more in our rural communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has really created difficulty getting those rural areas to respond to Census too,” he says.
For the first time in history, residents can complete the information online. According to Shikles, about 60.8% of Missourians have responded so far.
“It’s obvious that the pandemic has had an effect on everyone and it has really put people’s priorities into light,” says Shikles. “There’s a lot of people who feel the Census may just not be important right now, but we are here to remind them that it really is.”
The Census primarily helps Congress decide how to allocate federal funding.
“It’s a total number that includes school funding, nutrition funding, Medicaid, Medicare. Those numbers are based on our Census data and how many people that the Census Bureau estimates are living in the state of Missouri,” he says.
Shikles says the form is simple – and is not asking for certain details.
“The Census Bureau will never ask you for your social security number,” he says. “They’ll never ask you personal questions like your religion and they’ll never ask you for money. So, if you start getting requests like that, it’s definitely a red flag and you’ll want to call the Census Bureau and let them know what’s happening.”
Shikles has not heard any reports from Census takers running into problems from the recent public safety unrest.
October 31 is the new deadline to respond online or in the mail.
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