With deadline nearing, pandemic ongoing, Florida census reporting lags

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Fewer than six out of ten Floridians have filled out their census forms and the deadline to complete them is rapidly approaching.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made the count more difficult, but also more important than ever.

Florida is trailing the national response rate by nearly three percentage points.

“We are seeing low census return rates especially in our communities of color,” said Orlando State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani.

Marilyn Stephens, an assistant regional manager for the Census Bureau, said the numbers are a sign the state needs to do better.

“So Florida’s not pleased with where it is right now and that’s why we are working so hard on this push to get more households to self respond,” said Stephens.

The count is used to allocate congressional districts, but more importantly, it influences the allocation of funding.

“For infrastructure, health care, education,” said Stephens.

And also, pandemic relief funding.

“Just look at the CARES Act. Right? The CARES Act was saying that cities or counties of over 500,000 can draw the money down themselves, whereas everyone else had to go through the state. Well that count of 500,000 comes from a census count,” said Miami State Sen. Oscar Braynon.

There are three primary ways of responding to the census.

  • You can return your form via mail.
  • You can respond via phone by calling 844-330-2020
  • And for the first time ever you can respond online

And Florida politicians are working to get the message out.

“I know for us in our legislative office we have been posting online reminders and links daily,” said Eskamani.

And State Democrats like Braynon want to see the governor play a larger role.

“And I’ve never heard him mention it. And he’s kind of declined to get that involved in the census,” said Braynon.

The deadline to respond is Oct. 31, but the Bureau is encouraging everyone to fill out the forms as soon as possible.

While the pandemic has delayed the door-knocking campaign to reach out to non-respondents, 500,000 census workers will begin their face-to-face work next month.

You can apply for a census job at 2020census.gov.