If you haven't finished filling out the U.S. Census yet, you may soon get a friendly reminder — a knock on your door from an enumerator, or official Census taker.
Enumerators started hitting the streets of Cincinnati and surrounding communities this week to follow up with households that have yet to complete the once-a-decade count of every resident of the United States as of April 1, 2020.
That count is vital — it decides how many seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the amount of various forms of federal aid cities and other local communities receive. If you think Cincinnati could use more federal money for schools, medical service, community development or aid for those experiencing homelessness, for example, an accurate Census count is crucial.
Local officials estimate each Cincinnati resident not counted will lead to a loss of $18,000 in federal funding over the coming decade.
The Census workers are operating in unique times, and as such, officials say each has been trained in best practices for safe operations during the coronavirus pandemic. Each enumerator will be wearing a mask and following all social distancing protocols and other public health guidelines to avoid contracting or transmitting COVID-19.
Enumerators will have an official identification badge with their photo, an expiration date and a watermark from the U.S. Department of Commerce, which oversees the counting effort. If the enumerator who comes to your home does not speak your language, you can request one who does.
The Census-taking squads have been involved in every Census effort since the first Census in 1790. Originally, they were assistants to U.S. Marshals, who oversaw the Census until the mid-1800s. During that first Census, about 650 enumerators counted almost 4 million people across the original 13 states, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
These days, there are a lot more people in the U.S. — an estimated 328 million last year — and many more enumerators. The U.S. Census Bureau offered 900,000 applicants enumerator jobs, though a smaller number accepted those positions.
The internet has made collecting the Census easier in many ways, and a large number of households choose to either respond by mail or online. However, enumerators are still around to visit those who haven't responded. You could see them at your house sometime between now and the end of September — or dodge their visit by taking five minutes to fill out the 10-question Census online or via phone at 844-330-2020.