U.S. Census Bureau urges need for P.R. residents ‘to be accurately counted’
In preparation for the 2020 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau met key media outlets in Puerto Rico to emphasize the need for all people in Puerto Rico to be accurately counted and to discuss the Bureau’s public outreach efforts on the island.
The officials spoke at the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, alongside local leaders about efforts designed specifically to encourage Puerto Ricans to participate in the 2020 Census.
The U.S. Constitution mandates that a census of the population be conducted every 10 years. Census Bureau population statistics inform how billions of dollars in federal funds are allocated for critical public services like hospitals and healthcare clinics, emergency response, schools and education, and roads and bridges. The 2020 Census will also guide the drawing of local political boundaries.
During their presentation at the Science Trust, Census Bureau representatives explained how the 2020 Census will be conducted and shared the insights that culminated in the recently released Spanish-language communications campaign platform: “Dale forma a tu futuro. EMPIEZA AQUÍ” (“Shape your future. START HERE.”
“The 2020 Census is on track, and we’re confident that operations and outreach efforts will reach all communities, including every person living in Puerto Rico on April 1, 2020,” said Jeff T. Behler, regional director for the U.S. Census Bureau.
“We’re working closely with the local government, the business community, civic organizations, nonprofits and the faith community to accomplish our goal of counting everyone, including young children and babies,” he said.
According to the 2020 Census Barriers, Attitudes, and Motivations Survey, Puerto Rico presents several unique challenges, especially since the passing of Hurricane María in September 2017. The study revealed that few people in Puerto Rico have knowledge of the census, why it is important, who gets counted, and how to participate, he said.
Puerto Ricans are also concerned about issues of privacy and confidentiality.
“We’re working hard to make sure everyone understands that Census responses are confidential and protected by law,” said Sara Rosario-Nieves, chief of the strategic planning and portfolio management staff, Decennial Communications and Coordination Office.
“We don’t share your information with law enforcement agencies or immigration officials,” she said.
Meanwhile, Arnaldo Sosa, assistant regional census manager, said “we’re implementing a special approach to the census in Puerto Rico given the large number of households displaced by Hurricane María.”
“Instead of mailing questionnaires to every household, a census taker will visit every residence, confirm it is occupied, and leave a questionnaire package,” he said. “People can then respond online, return the questionnaire by mail, or call a toll-free number and speak to an English- or Spanish-language census operator.”
Behler also provided an update on the local recruiting for the 2020 Census operation in Puerto Rico emphasizing the importance of hiring census workers to work in the communities in which they live.
VMLY&R and BCW San Juan are the Puerto Rico marketing communications partner for the 2020 Census and serves as the audience expert in all aspects of the communications campaign.
“The campaign tagline, ‘Dale forma a tu futuro. EMPIEZA AQUÍ.’ is the creative foundation upon which we are building our communication, education, and outreach efforts focused specifically on the Puerto Rico audience,” said Raúl Ortiz, of the agencies.
“The 2020 Census is a once-in-a-decade count and Puerto Rico residents have a lot at stake, especially during the current rebuilding and reconstruction process. We believe the tagline and the communication materials to follow will help us to understand that we all have the opportunity to help shape our future,” he said.
This is the third decennial census to include a dedicated advertising and communications operation. In the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the Census Bureau also used advertising, partnership, and communications campaigns to increase awareness and participation in the count.
Higher self-response rates increase the accuracy of the census and save taxpayer money by lowering census follow-up costs for non-responding households.