With the U.S. Census now in full swing, yet the pandemic keeping federal census field operations in suspension, WaTech is among the Washington state agencies doing its part to encourage citizens to be counted in 2020.
The stakes for the state are high, as census figures are used to draw political jurisdictions like congressional seats and to allocate federal funds. About $16.6 billion in federal funds were distributed to Washington state in 2016 across 55 federal spending programs based on 2010 census data. The census is also used to determine where roads, health care facilities and schools are built, and to make key business decisions for the next 10 years.
The pandemic has prompted a change in state and federal census taking efforts, relying more on social media platforms and advertising than door-to-door fieldwork and community gatherings for census promotion. The census itself has entered the digital age - for the first time, respondents can complete the questionnaire online.
Even prior to that switch, three teams within WaTech began actively promoting census taking, reaching tens of thousands of citizens in the process.
The agency’s Telephony group, working with its state agency partners, has loaded pre-recorded messages urging census participation on call center lines that callers will hear while waiting for a customer service representative. Placement of the messages, in both English and Spanish, began in mid-February and will run through July.
The Wireless team, which coordinates the installation of wireless access points for Wi-Fi at state-owned and -managed buildings across Washington, deployed use of the guest password WaCounts2020, the state’s census theme, from Dec. 1 through April 1. The team recently switched to a different password that also encourages census participation. As many as 12,000 users a month have signed on using these passwords.
The Web Services team is promoting the census through the placement of a special banner on Access Washington, the state’s official website. The banner, which links to the Office of Financial Management’s census website, has been clicked on by hundreds of visitors since being positioned in December.
WaTech also placed pop-up banners about the census at its Olympia headquarters building, as well as conducted internal promotions to encourage employees to take the census.
“We are so pleased with the 54 cabinet-level state agencies that are mobilizing for the 2020 Census outreach,” said Susan Meldazy, 2020 Census Coordinator for Washington state. “WaTech, in particular, is doing an outstanding job reaching thousands of people every day.”
While the official Census Day was April 1, census taking will be conducted through Aug. 14.