The effects of COVID-19 has impacted communities throughout the country, but Bryan and College Station staff are still reminding people to fill out the 2020 U.S. Census.

Today marks Census Day, which is not a deadline necessarily, but a day when people are encouraged to complete this decade’s census online, by phone or by mail.

“Census Day is a constructive and valuable way to serve the community during kind of uncertain times with COVID-19, but it is essential for us as a local government to make very critical decisions about how federal funding is allocated in the next decade,” said College Station staff planner Jade Broadnax, who represents College Station on the U.S. Census Complete Count Committee.

The only way governments, especially at the city and county level, can make those decisions, she said, is with accurate census data.

This is the first year the census has been available online, so both Bryan and College Station representatives said they hope to see higher response rates.

“These times are definitely unprecedented, but filling out the census has never been easier to do online,” Broadnax said. “So right now, the message we’re really trying to spread is while you have more time at home that you may be looking to fill, you can be a productive member of society by completing your census online, over the phone or by mail.”

People do not need a desktop computer or a laptop to complete, Bryan staff planner and 2020 census liaison Allison Kay said. It can be done using a cellphone, noting that is how she completed her census information.

“So if you’re in the drive-thru, waiting for your pizza to be done or waiting for McDonald’s to get done, you can just pull out your cellphone, complete your census and be done with it,” she said, noting it took her less than 10 minutes to complete.

According to the U.S. Census website, Brazos County’s response rate of 30.7% was just behind the state response rate of 31.3%, as of Tuesday evening. The national average is 36.2%.

In addition to residential information, the census asks basic demographic information. Both Broadnax and Kay noted it does not include a citizenship question and emphasized the information is kept confidential.

The data is used by state, county and local governments to receive federal funds that go toward schools, school programs, hospitals, roads, public works, assistance programs, SNAP and other community programs.

Both representatives noted college students are a key factor in getting an accurate count. Even though Texas A&M and Blinn College students may not be living in Bryan or College Station due to the COVID-19 situation, Kay said, they should use the address where they receive package deliveries.

“If you’re just temporarily staying with your parents, it’s where you’re staying the majority of the time,” she said. “So you would still count yourself at your residence that you stayed at 10 months out of the year.”

Broadnax said students who live with roommates should coordinate so that one person fills it out for the entire residence, including all roommates. Only one person per residence should fill out the census. They also should communicate with their families to ensure that they are counted as a college student with their college address as their primary residence.

Residents should have received a mail-out with their census ID, but if not, both said, people can still fill out the census using their address.

People have until Aug. 14 to fill out the form, Broadnax said, but she encouraged people to fill it out either today or in the coming days.

“They’re keeping basically a running list of who has and has not responded online, by phone or by mail,” she said. Then, in May, federal census takers will start knocking on doors throughout the area of those who have not completed the census. “We’re trying to limit the spread of COVID-19, so, although you have until technically Aug. 14 now, we are strongly encouraging that you fill that out by [tonight] to limit census takers having to go out into the community.”

To fill out the 2020 U.S. Census online and for more information, go to 2020census.gov. The census can be completed over the phone at 844-330-2020 for English or 844-468-2020 for Spanish. Numbers for other languages are available on the census website. People can return the paper questionnaire — filled out using blue or black ink — to U.S. Census Bureau National Processing Center, 1201 E 10th St., Jeffersonville, IN 47132.

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