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COVID-19 and the Census: What the Numbers Show

A Census Bureau survey examines how COVID-19 is impacting our daily lives

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The Census Bureau's population count happens once every 10 years. For most of us, the coronavirus pandemic is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

And now one is helping us learn more about the other.

The 2020 Census will help determine how much funding Connecticut will receive for federal programs like Medicare, SNAP and Head Start, as well as representation in Congress.

The Census Bureau says the current pandemic underscores the importance of an accurate count.

"The number of beds in a hospital, the number of clinics in a community, ambulance, fire trucks, fire station, all based upon formulas that use Census data," said Jeff Behler, director of the Census Bureau's New York Regional Office.

But the Census goes beyond the once-a-decade count most of us are familiar with. Right now the Census is taking the temperature of our communities.

Since April, the Census Bureau has been conducting a weekly Household Pulse Survey to see how COVID-19 is impacting our everyday lives.

During the first 12 weeks, the survey looked at six areas:

  • Loss in Employment Income
  • Expected Loss in Employment Income
  • Food Scarcity
  • Delayed Medical Care
  • Housing Insecurity
  • K-12 Educational Changes

During Week One, 47% of adults in Connecticut said someone in their household lost income.

Tina Cooney lost her job when schools closed back in March.

"I live paycheck to paycheck and sometimes I have to decide which bills are going to get paid," she said. "Just the uncertainty of it all, caused a lot of anxiety."

Cooney was able to collect unemployment insurance until she found a new job. She also credits the United Way with helping her get through some tough economic times.

Marcia Palma had to close her Ansonia restaurant for a couple of weeks in March. She was able to secure a federal PPP loan and didn't have to lay off staff. She says staying open created a different kind of stress.

"Everyone is very nervous every day. It's a challenge to have the people contact every day, coming in and out," she said.

Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz joined Foodshare at its food distribution site in East Hartford on Wednesday to hand out flyers and U.S. Census water bottles. She is urging people to fill out the census by the Sept. 30 deadline.

Those sentiments are being echoed by the people who come to the Community Renewal Team in Hartford for help with their basic needs.

"Families are under strain trying to figure out how to educate their children, how to put food on the table," said Elizabeth Horton Sheff, director of Community Services for CRT.

"This pandemic has added an additional layer of pressure and stress on families. People who have meager income to begin with, right, make it through sometimes. But this additional strain of uncertainty has made life basically miserable," she said.

The Census survey backs up what we've seen at Foodshare's distribution drives at Rentschler Field.

The survey showed in weeks 1 through 12, anywhere between 8% to 10% of adults lived in households where they "sometimes" or "often" did not have enough to eat during the past seven days.

The changes in education impacted nearly every household in Connecticut with school-age children. And it wasn't always easy.

"Getting the children on the online learning. What a nightmare in my house," said Tina Cooney.

The Census Bureau has extended the Household Pulse Survey beyond Week 12, with new questions.

You can explore the data here.

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