What to Do If You Get Your Mail Through a P.O. Box and Have Not Received Your 2020 U.S. Census

If you get your mail through a P.O. box rather than your actual home address and have not yet received your 2020 U.S. Census, then we’ve got information and steps for your to take

Over 790,000 Mississippi households have completed their 2020 U.S. Census. Still, many others have informed us that they haven’t received their original letter in the mail and that they suspected it was because they use a P.O. box. For those with P.O. boxes that have not yet received their official letter from the United States Census Bureau with instructions on how to complete the 2020 U.S. Census, we hope to offer some information and clarification on what you can do to complete yours.

Before the spread of COVID-19, those who have not yet completed their census would be visited or contacted by certified census takers. Now, the United States Census Bureau is currently unable to send individuals out into the field, at least not without protective gear, and the rollout for official census takers to conduct field operations will have to take place in phases.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s official website:

“We don’t send census forms to P.O. boxes, so it’s actually normal for them not to receive a form in the mail at their P.O. box. The census is all about counting people where they live and sleep, so we must tie each form to a physical location. P.O. boxes are not tied to specific housing units, so we can’t use them to send the forms to specific housing units. When there is a large number of households in an area getting mail at a Post Office, we use the so-called “Update/Leave” technique. In other words, if we can’t get them a form to their physical address by mail, we’ll deliver one or interview them in person.”

The “Update/Leave” technique is actually one of the four primary ways in which the U.S. Census Bureau collects its data:

“In areas of the country (about 9% of the population) where mail is not delivered to residences uniformly, census staff will visit each housing unit, update our list of addresses, and leave a census form package in a plastic bag at the entrance door of the unit. This is the technique we will use in the Gulf Coast areas that were heavily affected by hurricane damage and are in the middle of their recovery.”

But why does the Census Bureau not send census letters to P.O. boxes? As explained on their website:

“Based on their usual residence (where they usually live and sleep) as of Census Day, people must be assigned by the Census Bureau to states (for reapportionment of the House of Representatives) and to individual blocks (for purposes of redistricting by the states and for the myriad uses of census data in funding/program decisions by federal agencies, states, tribes, local governments, and the private sector). Thus, we must both count people and assign them to a physical location where their living quarters are actually located. To do this, we conduct the census focused on where people live. The enumeration is driven by where people live, not by where they receive their mail. This concept of usual residence was established by the Census Act of March 1, 1790, as the interpretation of the Constitutional language requiring a census to determine the number of persons in each state. Post office boxes can be used to retrieve mail in any place one wishes to receive the mail. The boxes can be far away from the home of the owner of the box; boxes can be shared by multiple people who live in different housing units; some boxes are not attached to households but to businesses. For these reasons, the Census Bureau does not mail census forms to post office boxes.”

So, where does that leave current U.S. Census Bureau procedure on the matter? As detailed in an official press release from the Bureau dated March 11 of this year:

“For a small portion of the country, in areas where mail is generally not delivered to the physical location of residences (e.g., small towns with P.O. box-only delivery), census enumerators will visit households to either hand-deliver invitations and paper questionnaires or to conduct interviews with households to collect their census data. The 2020 Type of Enumeration Area Viewer, an interactive map application, shows how different geographic areas will be invited to respond to the 2020 Census and which areas will not receive an invitation.”

While there hasn’t been a further update from the Bureau since detailing proper next steps, this doesn’t mean that you will be left high and dry when it comes to being counted as part of the 2020 Mississippi Census. As we’ve covered in a previous blog post, the United States Census Bureau is already taking steps towards rolling out census field operations with proper protective gear in select areas: including Jackson and Gulfport.

In the meantime, what are the most proactive next steps for you to take if you have not yet received your 2020 Census letter in the mail?

Complete your census anyway!

That’s right, even if you have not received a census letter with your census code in the mail, you can still complete the 2020 United States Census online or over the phone! As long as you can provide the basic information required to complete your census (check out our blog for all of the official questions on the census), then you can complete it online or over the phone!

Still unsure or have other questions? Feel free to call us anytime at (601) 345-1420!

We encourage you to complete your 2020 Mississippi Census in any way that you can to ensure that you are counted. After all, every single person in our state represents up to $50,000 in federal funding over the next 10 years: money that can go towards improving the quality of life of your community! It only takes 10 minutes to answer 10 questions for 10 lasting years of impact! Complete your 2020 Mississippi Census today!

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