Fair Count: Census Updates, Pivoting Outreach for the Pandemic

Ed Reed from joins us again with Lauren Zehyoue, Communications Director for Fair Count.

  • 3 ways to complete the Census: online, by mail, over the phone
  • Reaching people digitally since the Census is still an important part of democracy that will continue beyond the pandemic
  • Pivoting to virtual events and webinars instead of in-person outreach
  • Census is scheduled to be offline on July 31st (if there is no extension planned due to the pandemic). The data for the Census is collected as of April 1st and the Census teams will follow up to make sure every person is counted until July 31st.
  • Changes in how college students are counted due to universities closing campuses
  • Hardest to count communities are also communities that are also often hardest hit by health concerns.
  • Infrastructure and Chromebooks put in place in communities before COVID-19 are being used for job applications, after school programs, state and federal benefits.
  • Breaking the digital divide in communities that need these devices.
  • COVID-19 changing the way Fair Count communicates with the public
  • The Census is still safe and can be completed from home.
  • The census represents more than $1.9 trillion worth of resources for our communities on an annual basis.
  • To complete your Census by phone, dial 1-844-330-2020 in English. The number to complete it in Spanish is 1-844-468-2020.
  • Fill out your census online at www.my2020census.gov or find out more info at www.2020census.gov

Transcript Follows

Ed Reed from Fair Count Part 2 Transcript

Welcome to Inclusion Catalyst with your hosts, Mickey Desai and Susan Cooper, we invite diversity leaders to the table to deconstruct complex social justice issues and showcase the best inclusion practices in our workplaces and our communities.

Mickey Desai  0:16 
So hello out there this is Mickey Desai one of your hosts for this episode of the Inclusion Catalyst. I have with me on the line Susan Cooper. Susan, are you there?

Susan Cooper  0:24 
Yes. Hello, everyone.

Mickey Desai  0:25 
This is a return engagement. We’re happy to be speaking again with Ed Reed of Fair Count. And Lauren Lauren, what is your last name?

Lauren Zehyoue  0:33 
Last name is Zehyoue.

Mickey Desai  0:35 
Zehyoue, and what do you do with Fair Count?

Lauren Zehyoue  0:38 
I’m Director of Communications.

Mickey Desai  0:40 
Excellent. Thanks to you both for joining us today.

Susan Cooper  0:42 
Thank you for having us. But

Mickey Desai  0:44 
Let’s just jump right in. How is it going since the start of your activities? I know that we’re sort of in the very beginning of high census time for you guys. How is it looking from your end?

Susan Cooper  0:54 
You know, the census began last week, started on March 12. Additionally, in fact, the Census Bureau did a soft launch of the online portal at the beginning of last week, just a few days ahead of time. So we were kind of thrilled to see that. You know, the latest numbers we’ve seen from the Census Bureau, and they’re released at the end of the week, and over the weekend was that, you know, more than 5 million households that already responded on online, so we’re happy to see that. The first day for most people to get their questionnaire was in the mail was on the 12th. And everyone should receive some type of invitation to respond in their mail no later than March 20th, which is, you know, this week. So we’ve seen a lot of activity when folks online social media and the buzz around you know, people going to the mailbox and getting their invitation, and completing it online. There’s three ways in which you can complete the census that’s over the phone, and there are 13 toll free numbers. And the reason 13 numbers is that there are 13 different languages. In which the including English in which the census is provided in. And so there’s a language for each number. And then there you can complete the the mailed questionnaire. And then the third option would be to complete it online. And so we’ve been pushing people to you know, choose one of those easy methods. Of course, if you choose one of those methods and you completed it, your chances of seeing someone knock at your door go down quite a bit. And so we were happy to see that there are folks are getting in line to ensure that they are being counted in 2020 census.

Mickey Desai  2:39 
Excellent. I’m glad to hear it’s gotten off to a really good start. I know where they’re so another initiatives you mentioned last time that we wanted to follow up on I was wondering if you could take us down that road for a little bit.

Susan Cooper  2:49 
Yeah, so you know, since we last spoke, we’ve we’ve kind of launched a more you know, rapid get out the count program at Fair Count. We brought on some additional staff and we’re happy to have staff in every corner of the state of Georgia. We’ve kind of expanded some of our national footprint as well. And so we’re happy to be organizing and, you know, some of the hardest to count communities in the entire country. We, started a statewide bus tour, just over a week ago, and in fact, in Georgia. We planned about 50 plus stops and tons of counties across the entire state of Georgia. We put that on hold for now, till things kind of clear up with the pandemic. And we don’t want to, of course, be, you know, going into communities and people places are not operational. And so we’re mindful of that and we have adjusted that schedule and postpone the bus tour for now. But you know, we were having to visit a number of counties prior to postponing the bus tour. And the energy that we saw on some of rural Georgia around the census was was very impactful. And so we’re excited. And so now we’re looking at how do we interact with folks through our digital resources, through our digital footprint and everything that’s going on across the country. And being mindful that, you know, this is a very important piece of our government and democracy that will continue to go on, even amongst everything else that’s going on. And you know, there are tons of conversations about whether or not the Census Bureau will extend their enumeration period. We can’t bank on any of that. So we have to make sure that we’re coming up with creative and innovative ways to continue to reach people, whether that be through social media, through email, online webinars. We’re switching a lot of our meetings and larger events have been changed and switch to virtual functions. And so it’s really good that we kind of had a little bit of that platform and structure in place already. So the pivot wasn’t wasn’t that bad for us. One of the trainings we did in December, we practiced with our organizers on what if there was a big, large sinkhole where the bus couldn’t go in terms of the bus tour, and what would you do? We never envisioned something of this magnitude, that will come, you know, is essentially doing right at the peak time of the census. So we’re, what a bit of a curveball we are adapting. Our organizers are, as we speak, talking to members of the community, grassroots leaders, grass tops, and figuring out what their needs are, how can we still disseminate material and information to them? How can we, you know, show the impact that the senses will have, regardless of what’s going on? So it’s kind of where we are, as we speak? We were hopeful that we’ll be able to continue a lot of the the traditional methods of outreach that we had once this is behind us.

If the enumeration period does not get extended, how long do people have to fill out the census? I know that there’s some follow up plans in the works but when does the follow up period end? When is the last day?

So July 31, is when the census is is offline, totally. So you have until July 31, to either mail in your questionnaire do it via phone or completed online. That’s the sort of drop dead deadline for for the census as as we currently speak. You know that the traditional date for the in person enumeration. That’s when you know, if he didn’t respond via the mail the phone or online, you’d get a knock at the door that was slated to start sort of at the end of the end of April. They backed that up now to a little bit in May as to when they will start that process. We are seeing some changes as it relates to you know, how they’re pivoting at the Census Bureau. We’re also seeing changes on how college students are accounted. For instance, we know a lot of the colleges and universities are there, they’re shutting down for some for the rest of the semester. Some just added on some time to the traditional spring break. So just kind of varies depending on the state or the university. But the Census Bureau is kind of adapting and using some additional resources to make sure that they are adjusting operations as it relates to how college students are counted. We know that they’re kind of part of what they would the census bureau considered a group quarters operation. Which typically what would happen is if they will live in an on campus housing, the administrators will have the option of counting them sort of as a group. Some universities are slated to have their students do individual enumeration, but for the large part, a lot of the college university group enumeration so they’re figuring out now how to kind of respond with students being off campus and not to local throughout this period of time. And so I know the Census Bureau is actively working through that.

Mickey Desai  7:57 
Yeah, but I’m glad to hear that the something COVID-19 is not deterring you guys from doing the best you can under the circumstances. I think that’s very encouraging.

Susan Cooper  8:06 
Yeah, absolutely we, we can’t stop because, often, some of the communities in which we work in are the hardest to count communities, but they’re also some of the communities that are hit the hardest by, you know, health concerns, such as COVID-19. And so it makes the work that we’re doing that much more impactful to ensure that they’re being counted and their voice is being herd.

Absolutely. And the infrastructure that you’ve already placed in those communities in terms of the Chromebooks that you mentioned in the last episode, and

Yeah, as it relates to those, and we don’t know where we were in terms of how many locations we had installed in at when we last spoke, but we’re up to 135. As of today, our goal was 150. We were certainly going to reach our goal as of this week, we have kind of delayed the further issuance of of those devices until things kind of are behind us here at the pandemic-wise. But we sent out additional guidance to those 135 locations. You know, some of them, of course, are not going to be operational through this time. So we certainly understand that and respect that. But for those that are operational, and they still have people coming into their places of business or their places of worship, we want to ensure that the devices are, you know, they’re creating a safe environment for them. So they’re just disinfecting them after each use and, you know, taking best practices that are, you know, slated by the CDC and also from Fair Count to ensure the safety of those that are using the devices. And we found that even before COVID-19 was on the scene that people were using these devices and in a lot of different variations. For instance, it found some locations were using them to plan for state and federal benefits. They were using to apply for the US Census Bureau jobs. They were doing other job applications using devices. We have some a after school programs. The kids were using them for after school programming the kids that did not have the devices at home. And so that is a certainly a challenge, even amidst COVID-19 kids that are having to do their homework or their lessons at home. We’re trying to figure out ways that at Fair Count that we might be able to partner with some of these communities to provide some additional resources to, to further break that digital divide.

That’s great. From a communications standpoint. I wanted to ask Lauren, I’m in communications myself, and so I wondered if your plans for your PR and your social media communications in any other public facing communications have changed, given the status of the pandemic?

Lauren Zehyoue  10:39 
Oh, absolutely. You know, everything from the fact that so much of our guild operation and program operation was in person and a lot of that will be moving online to communications and digital platforms, right. I’m also keeping in mind that COVID-19 coronavirus is at the toop of people’s minds right now and so often before you can talk to them about another topic, you have to assuage them about their initial concern. And so there are, as I was referencing with our internet installation, like there are other ways that we are indeed, keeping in mind, like the way COVID-19 is impacting other people’s lives, and it impacts the way we communicate with them as well.

Susan Cooper  11:20 
Yeah, you know, it’s it’s simple, you know, we want people to know that the census is still safe. It’s easy. I did mine at the end of last week, proud to do it. Laughed and smiled through the entire thing. Took me less than 10 minutes to complete. I have a three person household. You know, if there are additional persons in the household, it will take a few minutes longer. But most people can complete it in under 10 minutes if you’re doing it online. And so we want people to know that it’s easy, it’s simple, it’s safe. And that is impactful. You know, it represents more than $1.9 trillion worth of resources for our communities on an annual basis. So we need to ensure that we’re pressing that message. You need to press that there are three ways a lot of people don’t know about the phone option that that exists and so for some people we understand that that’s the best way and the easiest way with so many scams that are going on. Some people don’t even look at their mail. Things get tossed to the side even though the Census Bureau, the envelope in which it comes in the documentation looks very official. But we know people are very leery sometimes things coming in the mail. So the phone option is a good toll free option to be able to call in, give you information over the phone and get a confirmation number that you’ve completed it. You get the same confirmation number when you’ve completed it online. You don’t get that type of confirmation number when you mail it in. It is a pre stamped, pre postage return envelope for those that are completing it by by mail also. We want people to ensure that they they’re getting it by you know, middle of March that that March 20th deadline. You can also go to 2020census.gov. They have a very interactive map on the website under the Resources tab in which you can go and actually find out when your area of the state or the country is slated to get that invitation in the mail. So if you haven’t gotten it and you want to track it there, you can do so there. You can stay up to date at FairCount. org. We provide resources on a regular basis through our website and through our platform you can commit to being counted there, which will ensure that you stay tuned with with a lot of the digital resources in which Lauren referenced that we will be pushing out throughout this process and also throughout the non response follow up period that begins in May.

Mickey Desai  13:42 
Fantastic. And just to be clear, I want to make sure that I don’t really need to wait for that mailing piece. I could just go online and complete my census without an invitation.

Susan Cooper  13:50 
Yes, you absolutely could. So the invitation that comes in the mail, and there’s a 12 digit ID number that’s unique to your household. What happens on the online portal, it asks you for that ID number. If you enter the ID, it pre populates your address. There is an option on the front screen of that online portal that where you do not need to input the 12 digit ID, the only additional step you’d have to do is to put in your address. And so you don’t have to have that unique ID. So if you get the mailer, you lose it, you forget it where it is. You can still go online and proactively do it without having that unique ID number. I’m glad you asked that question because it’s really important.

Mickey Desai  14:32 
I know my own history, and I’m likely to overlook the entire mailing.

Ed Reed  14:37 
Well we want to make sure your counted so thank you.

Susan Cooper  14:40 
What about the phone number? Do you want to tell us what the phone number is if people would rather call in their census?

Ed Reed
Yes, I’m happy to give you the one that is slated in English if you would like to call and to complete the census there. It is 1-844-330-2020. Again, that’s 1-844-330-220. And if you’d like it in Spanish, it’s available at 1-844-468-2020, again in Spanish at 1-844-468-2020. And it’s also available in 11 other languages as well. And those can be found at the Census Bureau website at 2020census.gov. If you’re completing it online, the link to the direct portal to be able to do it online is actually My2020census.gov. That’s My2020census.gov that takes you right to the front screen to be able to input your information and get counted.

Mickey Desai  15:46 
Awesome. Thank you.

Yes. Is there anything else that you’d like to add or talk about today?

Susan Cooper  15:53 
I think that really covers it. Again, I’m happy to come back on at a later date. I think things are, you know, ever changing in this moment. And so we’re happy to provide updates as we see it, we know that the Census Bureau later this month and into April will be able to interactively provide us with a map online of where households have responded and sort of the rates in which they’re coming in. And so a lot of our efforts, you know, in the spring, we’ll be rapid response, looking at areas that maybe have had the highest number of returns in terms of questionnaires. So maybe, you know, having to come back on in the spring to talk a little bit about, you know, what that means for communities here in Georgia, as it relates to hard to count communities that maybe need to be their rates need to be up a little higher.

Mickey Desai  16:43 
I’m nodding, no one can see this. But yes, we would definitely look forward to that later in the spring. And I can’t thank you and Lauren enough for taking the time just to check in with us and giving us an update.

Susan Cooper  16:52 
Absolutely. Thank you for having us. As always.

Mickey Desai  16:55 
Thank you. This has been another episode of the Inclusion Catalyst. Thank you, as always for joining us. If you have a moment, please rate us on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Your ratings actually make us more searchable and findable by other people who are interested in this subject matter. And thank you to the listeners for joining us. We’ll see you again with another episode.

Susan Cooper  17:18 
And that’s it for this episode of Inclusion Catalyst. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe and share it with your friends and colleagues.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai