World graphic/Madeline Happold

I have a confession: I didn’t complete the census until this week.

Before doing more research, I was ignorant as to how the census operated. I moved to Washington in June, and I was hesitant to complete the form because I believed it would imply I was a permanent Washington resident. I was wrong.

Even though people can still complete the census, the form is based on your residency as of April 1, 2020, known as Census Day.

“It can be confusing,” said Toby Nelson, the Eastern Washington area spokesperson for the U.S. Census Bureau. “The census is so much longer this year than it has been in past decades due to the extension as a response to COVID-19.”

The final day for completing the census is extended until Sept. 30. Census data determines the number of seats a state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives and informs how federal funds will be allocated for the next decade. This year is also the first year the census is available to complete online.

According to current response rates provided by the 2020 Census Bureau, Washington state is exceeding 2000 and 2010 response rates, with 76% completion. Chelan and Douglas counties have both surpassed past census response rates, with Douglas County reported a 71% response rate compared to Chelan County’s 68% rate. Current response rate numbers only track self-response, meaning those who filled out the form prior to being contacted by census employees.

“Washington had an atypically high self-response rate, so either people who voluntarily respond(ed) online or mail(ed) back their paper questionnaire,” Nelson said. Washington is third in the nation for response rate, according to Nelson.

With a little over a month left to complete the census, the Census Bureau launched its Non-Response Followup (NRFU) operation, the largest field operation of 2020. Starting Aug. 11, about 1,000 census workers were deployed to 20 counties in Eastern Washington, including Chelan and Douglas, according to Nelson.

I was contacted twice within a week period urging me to participate. The second time, I was home, and the worker knocked on my door three times before I tentatively answered.

He wore a face mask and was carrying a Census Bureau messenger bag. He informed me that I could complete the application with him or on my own and handed me my Census ID. The Notice of Visit slip had one side in English and the other in Spanish. I simply had to go online and fill out the form.

I filled out the form online in late August to help bolster government aid for the Latinx community. Since my family is of Mexican descent, I wanted to complete the Census information to better allocate government funding. It was simple and straightforward, and I didn’t need to enter a Social Security number or driver’s license ID. The worst part was trying to remember the birthdays of the six people in my immediate family.

The census is based on residency, not citizenship, so as long as migrant workers or undocumented citizens were living in the U.S. as of April 1, 2020, they are eligible to participate.

“We count everybody regardless of citizen status,” Nelson said. “The only criteria is if Washington (or anywhere in the U.S.) was their usual residence of April 1st.”

If you have yet to complete the census, go online at 2020census.gov.