February 05, 2020

2020 Census: Ensuring a Complete Count

2020 Census Snapshot

  • What: The decennial census counts everyone in the US.
  • Why: Census results help determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into states and communities each year.
  • When: Starting in Mid-March, households will be invited to complete the census.
  • How: For the first time ever, households can complete the census online. It can also be completed over the phone, by mail, or in person.
  • Who: One person, one count!

Read on to learn more about why the census is important and how YOU can be involved in ensuring a complete count!

Census 2020 Jobs

Why the census is important

Since 1790, the decennial census has counted every person in America, as mandated by the US Constitution. The census impacts all of us, and it is critical that we respond and encourage others to do the same. Billions of dollars in federal funding are directed to states and municipalities every year through data from the census, including Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), special education funding, Pell Grants, Head Start, and many more.

Read the Counting for Dollars fact sheet to see federal spending in Massachusetts driven by Census Data.


Date Event
March 12 - 20 You will begin to receive an invitation to respond online (or via phone) to the census.
March 16 - 24 You will receive a reminder letter.
March 26 - April 3 You will receive a reminder postcard.
April 8 - 16 You will receive a reminder letter and paper questionnaire.
April 20 - 27 You will get a final reminder postcard before in-person follow up.

Hard-to-count populations

The census is a complete count of every person in the nation. The effort to count everyone is a pretty complex task. Some groups of people are harder to count than others, so in order to ensure a complete count, the Census Bureau is focusing on partnering with cities, towns, nonprofits, and other agencies for help.

Hard-to-count populations are the elderly, disabled, low income, limited English speakers, and people who move often like college students, and people who are homeless.

See a full list of hard-to-count groups to learn more about what the Census Bureau is doing to target these groups and how you can help.

Use this map to see hard-to-count areas in your community.

How you can help

Get involved!

Work for the census:

The Decennial Census is the single largest peace-time mobilization in our nation. Ensuring a complete count depends on having a fully staffed organization. Census Bureau jobs are good opportunities and offer competitive wages. Find out more or apply online today here: 2020 Census Jobs.

Host a census solutions workshop:

Census solutions workshops allow organizations to strategize on outreach and action plans for a complete count with the guidance of the Census Bureau. My office can work with you to bring a census worker to your group or organization and host a census solutions workshop. Contact my office today, or reach out to the Census Bureau directly to get started!


Help promote awareness for the census by posting flyers in your workspace. Below are links to common flyers:

Targeted campaigns

Statistics in Schools (SIS)

The Census Bureau has created materials specifically for classrooms and schools across the nation to promote education about the importance of the upcoming census. Head to this website to find materials and start engaging your students in census preparation!

Faith Toolkit

Faith leaders are trusted leaders in our community, and represent many different groups of people. The goal of the Census is to “ensure every adult and child in the country is counted, regardless of race, faith tradition, immigration status or economic status.” Read more about the important role faith leaders have in ensuring a complete count, and find out about the unique tools available to your organization.

Completing the Census

Sample Survey - Example first page

Example 2020 Census

Ways to respond

  • Online: For the first time ever, responding to the census can be done online! When you receive the notice in the mail from the Census, you can immediately respond online. (See: Avoiding Scams)
  • Phone: Call the Census and respond over the phone! (See: Avoiding Scams)
  • Paper: Some households will be mailed paper census. Fill the census out on paper and return it back as instructed.
  • In person: Starting in mid-May, census workers will be doing outreach in person to collect census data.

See the Mail Contact Strategies viewer to find out more about how the census will ask households in your area to respond!


The Census Bureau is working to make the process as accessible and available as possible.


When responding online, the Internet Self-Response Instrument will be available in 12 non-English languages, which include Spanish, Chinese (Simplified), Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese.

Over the phone

The Census Bureau will provide Census Questionnaire Assistance by phone in 12 non-English languages, including Spanish, Chinese (Simplified), Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese.

Language Guides for limited or non-English speakers

The U.S. Census Bureau will also produce a glossary of census terms, a card for enumerators to identify the language of the household, and video and print guides in American Sign language and the 58 non-English languages.

Find the 2020 Census Language Guides online to help respondents complete the survey.


The census will have a video in American Sign Language available to guide residents through responding online.

You can respond by phone in English or in 12 additional languages. You can also respond in English by TDD at 844-467-2020. By mid-April, the Census will mail a paper questionnaire to every household that hasn’t already responded. (Some households will receive a paper questionnaire along with the first invitation in March.) They’ll also have braille and large print guides available online to assist you with completing the paper questionnaire.

Find out more about 2020 census accessibility online.

Group Quarters

The census will work to ensure a complete count of individuals living in group quarters separately than households. Group quarters refers to people living in group living arrangements, such as colleges, nursing homes, jails, and other situations. Outreach to group quarters will work to identify group quarters early and establish a preferred response method.

Read more about group quarters enumeration (GQE) at the Massachusetts Secretary of State website.


The census is a safe, secure, and trusted process. The census uses data to report statistics, and never shares personal information. 

Learn more about privacy and the census.

Avoiding Scams

The census will NEVER ask for your:

  • Social Security Number
  • Bank account or credit card numbers
  • Money or donations

A census taker will also never threaten you with arrest or jail time. You can be fined for not responding to the census, but never imprisoned.

Read more about avoiding scams, and educate your friends and family.

Verify the census is in your area

Census website shows locations where employees are. If you are contacted by someone, you can verify they work for the census by one of the following ways: