• The Star Staff

Governor urges island residents to participate in Census

By John McPhaul


Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced urged Puerto Rico residents on Wednesday to respond to the 2020 Census in an effort to increase participation and adequate headcount of people residing on the island.

Currently, Puerto Rico has one of the lowest census response rates in the U.S. amid the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we continue to combat COVID-19 and move forward with the reopening of our economy, it is important that we focus on responding to the 2020 Census,” Vázquez said in a press release. “While we understand the hesitation to interact with individuals outside the family nucleus and continue observing proper social distancing measures, we must not forget that Puerto Rico needs to be represented in the Census. I strongly urge the people of Puerto Rico that currently call the island home to fill out the questionnaire in order to ensure everyone is accounted for. As the governor of Puerto Rico, it is my responsibility to ensure that our people have accurate representation in the U.S. Census.”

As the island continues to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to reopen the economy safely, the U.S. Census Bureau has also resumed operations, and since May 22 has again been leaving questionnaire forms outside the front doors of residences. In the aftermath of the 2017 hurricanes, the U.S. Census Bureau determined to hand-deliver questionnaires instead of mailing them to residences to ensure an accurate headcount amid the island’s recovery efforts. However, after earthquakes struck the island early in the year and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic hit Puerto Rico, the island’s response rate has stalled at just 22 percent.

The U.S. Census Bureau serves as the nation’s leading provider of quality data about its people and economy, data that is used to provide community services planning for the elderly and infrastructure such as new roads and schools, among many other purposes.

The Census also distributes more than $675 billion in federal funds and informs how states and communities allocate funding for neighborhood improvements, public health, education and transportation.

It also publishes information on age-qualifying services such as social security and other retirement benefits as well as passport applications. Additionally, it estimates population size, characteristics and projections on future demographic trends, including births, life expectancy and migration patterns. The U.S. Census is vital to ensure proper community representation.

“Over the past decade, we’ve faced many challenges. The fiscal and economic crisis, the impact of hurricanes and earthquakes, and now the coronavirus are just some examples.

Responding to the 2020 Census is crucial to ensure Puerto Rico receives the necessary federal resources to address these emergencies and continue our recovery process,” said Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón. “The information gathered through the Census also helps determine how we in Congress allocate billions of dollars in federal funding each year to meet the needs of our citizens and communities. This is why I continue to urge everyone in Puerto Rico to fill out the Census as soon as possible. The future and well being of our island depend on it.”

U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham noted that “[b]y now the majority of Puerto Rico households have been invited to participate in the 2020 Census.”

“I strongly encourage everyone in Puerto Rico to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone or mail as soon as possible,” he said. “Your response helps shape decisions about the distribution of funds for public services such as schools, emergency response and health care in your community. Responding is safe and your information is protected by law.”

Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration Executive Director Jennifer M. Storipan said “Puerto Rico has currently one of the lowest response rates of the 2020 Census in the U.S., and we need to change that.”

“If underreporting happens on the island, this will create a domino effect on the amount of federal funding the island receives,” she said. “Puerto Rico could see a reduction in eligibility for access to federal funding and allocation based on population, and we cannot have that. We urge the people of Puerto Rico to respond to the 2020 Census in an effort to assure accurate representation of the people on the island.”

The U.S. Census consists of 10 questions and takes 10 minutes to complete, but it determines the community’s funding and representation for the next 10 years. Citizens can fill out the Census online, by phone, and in Spanish for Puerto Rico residents from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Eastern Time: (844) 426-2020, or in the respondent’s preferred language or by mail. For more information, visit 2020Census.gov.