The Latest on 2020 Census Activities

Friday, January 17, 2020
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We are approaching the final stretch for the 2020 census preparations. Thus far, philanthropic institutions—both funders and grantees—have done a remarkable job in preparing for the decennial census. Foundations have provided more than $80 million for the census initiative at the national level, and millions more at the state level. This philanthropic commitment to census is far greater  than any time in the past—and by leaps and bounds. 

Below are recent activities and resources on census efforts.

Policy Updates 

Census Funding. Towards the end of December, Congress approved $6.7 billion for the final funding package for the 2020 census, plus a bit more than $1 billion in carryover funds from FY 2019, for a total of $7.7 billion.

Bipartisan Senate Resolution. A Senate resolution introduced by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) encouraging households across the country to fill out the census passed unanimously. It is now headed to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. The resolution says, “It is the civic duty of the people of the United States to help ensure that the 2020 Census is as accurate as possible.” It encourages people to apply for jobs with the Census Bureau and concludes that “residents of the United States should plan to respond to the 2020 Census to ensure that all people living in a household in the United States, including young children, are included.”

Disinformation. A major concern is the spread of disinformation—that is, false information—about the census. On Dec. 19, 2019, Facebook announced it will ban false information about the census as well as ads that discourage participation in the 2020 census. Stakeholder groups have been providing training and toolkits on how to spot and combat disinformation efforts, and the groups who have extensive experience in running election protection efforts will also be running census protection hotlines in English, Spanish, Arabic, and several major Asian languages.

Census Bureau Advertising. Last December, the Census Bureau announced information about the placement of its paid ad campaign, with ads in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese. While the amount of money being spent on paid ads is more than in 2010, stakeholder groups are continuing to evaluate the plans and determine how best to address any gaps that may still exist.

Hiring Census Workers. The Census Bureau is behind in recruiting and hiring enumerators. Recently, the Bureau announced a new push to recruit up to 500,000 census takers. If you know of people interested in applying, share this link:  The Bureau also provided this interactive map to identify areas where hiring is taking place.

Get Out the Count (GOTC)

National GOTC Hubs. Hubs are engaged in a range of tasks to help with outreach within their target audience. These tasks can include opinion research to help define messaging, toolkits and multilingual materials to help with state/local outreach (including do’s and don’ts), national communications strategies and campaign events, training and technical assistance to state/local groups, assistance with rapid response needs, and buying paid ads to promote the census. 

Census Equity Fund and Mini-Grants. The Census Equity Fund is a fund to support groups doing census outreach in states with large hard-to-count populations where there is limited philanthropy or  government financial support. So far, around $9 million has been awarded to 57 organizations in 25 states. In many of these states, the grants helped to leverage additional funding by state-based funders.


Hard-to-Count Map Updates. CUNY’s Graduate Center has built an interactive hard-to-count map, which is being used throughout the country. CUNY continues to make improvements to the map by adding data and newer tools. Once the census is in full swing in March, CUNY will be adding real-time data from the Census Bureau on response rates. This will allow a better sense of areas where stakeholders and funders can channel last-minute resources to encourage households to fill out the census.

Census Guided Distribution of Federal Funds. The census guides the distribution of federal funds for many programs. Professor Andrew Reamer of George Washington University (along with the Project On Government Oversight) tracked and analyzed this information. His most recent brief identifies 316 federal programs that rely on census data to distribute $1.5 trillion. He will soon release a supplement showing how much federal money each state receives based on the census count, with the correlation being: If there is an undercount in a state, it would likely lower the amount of money that state receives from the federal government.

How to Fill Out the Census Online. The Census Bureau recently released a 6-minute video on how to fill out the upcoming, online 2020 survey. You can watch the video is here; it provides step-by-step instructions. The Census Bureau will be rolling out versions of this video in multiple languages.

Finding Census Resources. We have recently provided funding for the Census Counts campaign (which is housed at the Leadership Conference Education Fund) to update their website to make it easier for stakeholders (including your grantees) to find materials to help them with census outreach. This includes links to National GOTC Hubs, helpful Census Bureau materials, training materials, past webinars, and much more. Here is a link to the list of materials being compiled for the Census Counts website. 

Let IPA Know How You’re Engaged in the Census. Contact Holly M. Davis, IPA vice president of external relations, to share how you are working on the census. 

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