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Remarks by Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the U.S. Census, National Partnership Press Event at the Renaissance Hotel, Washington, D.C.


(Introduced by Hector Barreto, President of The Latino Coalition and former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.)

Thank you, Hector, for that kind introduction, and — as the former SBA Administrator — thank you for your service to our country. I can’t tell you how important it is for me to be here to discuss our plans to work with national organizations such as yours to count everyone in the country. Thank you to the Latino Coalition for hosting this event.

And, thank you, Harry Alford of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, and Chiling Tong, of the Asian / Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship, for being with us as well. We appreciate all three of your organizations’ early and strong support for the Census count that will take place in 2020.

Our event today demonstrates the significance of National Partnerships to the 2020 Decennial Census. Our goal is to count everyone, one time, and in the right place.

The Census Bureau’s National Partnership Program is well underway, and is picking up speed. We are contacting national organizations like the ones represented here, to help us connect to communities and individuals who are difficult to reach, and who tend not to respond to the initial contact from the Census Bureau.

Two weeks ago, in my office at the Commerce Department, I met with our Census Bureau’s National Partnership Team. I told them that I will be personally involved in recruiting organizations: from major corporations, such as large retailers, restaurant and hotel chains, social media and digital companies; to federal departments and agencies; large healthcare providers; national business organizations such as the ones here today; local and state governments; and media outlets and organizations.

This year alone, the Census Bureau has already engaged in conversations with nearly 200 organizations, ranging from major companies in the technology, media, retail, and food and beverage industries. We have met with leading national advocacy and non-profit groups that reach hard-to-count populations.

Many trusted national organizations are already on board, such as the NAACP, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the United Way, the American Library Association, and the American Association of Community Colleges, to name a few. They will engage in numerous activities to encourage their customers, constituents, clients, employees, and their fans, to respond to the Census when it is time.

We plan on having a major National Partner kick-off event in April 2019, one year from the Census. We are committed to the National Partnership Program because we need everyone’s help in raising awareness of the importance of the Census to every business, every organization, every family and every individual in the country.

The Census is an essential civic exercise, to which we all contribute, and from which we all benefit.

We want to enlist as many partners as we can.

Within the Census Bureau, we are hiring more national partnership specialists than ever before. By the end of this month, we will have more than 100 partnership specialists on the payroll. At the height of the Census, there will be more than 1,500 partnership specialists working across the country. That is far more than the 849 partnership specialists working during the peak of the 2010 Census.

In addition, during the last Census, we did not have those specialists in the field until well into 2008. In this cycle, we had more than 40 partnership specialists in the field beginning a full year earlier.

I have also reached out to a number of states and have encouraged them to establish so-called “Complete Count Committees” for the 2020 Census. These committees will work to encourage public participation in the Census, thereby assuring that local and state governments get their fair share of federal outlays. So far, 38 states and the District of Columbia have created Complete Count Committees.

We expect to have almost all 50 states on board, but we are awaiting the returns from 11 gubernatorial elections this coming November. Many of those states have indicated they will establish Complete Count Committees once their new governors are in place later this year or in early 2019. This is the first census in which we have worked on a nation-wide effort to establish partnerships with every state.

In addition, many state governments are supporting the Census by providing data to ensure that we reach and count every person. Our state outreach effort is far ahead of where it was at this point in the last census. In 2010, there was no coordinated effort to form partnerships at the state level.

There are many good reasons to aggressively pursue partnerships with national organizations. They help us convey to all U.S. residents that the Census is required by the U.S. Constitution and that it determines congressional representation. The Census guides the distribution of more than $675 billion a year in federal funding. It provides the data for decisions that impact local communities, such as where to build roads, schools, and hospitals.

And our national partners help to emphasize that — by law — the Census is strictly confidential. Responses are not shared with anyone outside of the Census Bureau. Since 1954, Census workers have sworn for life to uphold confidentiality protections contained in the Title 13 legal statute. It is against the law for any Census Bureau employee to share respondent information with anyone. That means they cannot share Census data with any other government agency or government officials, including those working at the IRS, the FBI, ICE, DHS, and for local and state law enforcement agencies.

Furthermore, I am proud to report that our 2018 Census Test in Providence, Rhode Island, was a great success. All of our major operational systems functioned well, and the self-response rates we saw beat our own estimates. Our preliminary analysis of the test in Providence indicates that the productivity rate of our enumerators was 1.51 cases per hour. That is a stark improvement over the 1.01 cases per hour we experienced in the 2010 Census.

There are many other improvements over the last Census. The coming 2020 Census will be the first-ever digital census. We found that in Providence, respondents embraced our technological innovations. Among those who responded on their own, six out of 10 did so using our online forms.

I also want to note that we are on budget and on schedule with every aspect of the 2020 Census. We are adhering to the design and timeframes that have been meticulously planned since the last Census in 2010.

We are focused on cyber issues associated with the count, being fully cognizant of need to protect the privacy of everyone. We know that we cannot afford to have any type of security breach, and we are putting ample resources into data-protection systems.

On top of our already strong culture of data security and stewardship, we are collaborating with the federal government’s top intelligence agencies. We are working with the best cyber-security firms in the nation to further assure that all of our data systems are secure, as well as the means by which our data is gathered.

Data is encrypted at the point of collection. It is encrypted in transit. And it is encrypted when it is at rest in the Census Bureaus’ systems. Our encryption methodologies are consistent with the best practices across the Federal Government and in the private sector.

The Census Bureau also encrypts data on our enumerators’ devices, such as their phones, laptops, and servers. The Bureau removes data as soon as possible from all government devices, and our responses are locked in our vault.

Finally, we are making a full-court press to assure that everyone living in the United States responds to the 2020 Census. We will spend $510 million on advertising and marketing through Y&R, the creative agency that is leading our efforts. This is an increase of $130 million spent on advertising and marketing during the 2010 Census.

Again, I am delighted to be here with you, Hector, as well as with Harry, and Chiling — who also, I might note — is a graduate of the Commerce Department.

Thank you all for your participation in the National Partnership program, and your commitment to making the 2020 Census a huge success. We look forward to working with your organizations and others in the months ahead.

Bureaus and Offices