The 2020 census started last week and there is a lot of buzzing around it: what is it? Why is it important? I had those same questions, but after some digging and poking around, here’s what I discovered.
The census is a count of everyone who lives in the United States and its territories, required by the Constitution to happen every 10 years and it started back in 1790. The data collected helps inform important decisions, like how much federal funding each community receives and how many representatives we get in Congress.
After some politicians tried to create chaos and confusion around the census, let me tell you, it’s safe, secure and easy to fill out.
You probably already received a postcard in the mail with a special number to help filling out the census online. You will be asked to count everyone who lives in your home. By lives, they mean people who sleep most of the time in your home. For example, for parents who have college-aged children, who live in dorms, those children wouldn’t be counted as living with their parents.
There are two primary reasons why it is important for all of us to fill out the census: for political representation and the funding for the needs of the community. When speaking of political representation, the census determines how many seats the state gets in Congress for the next 10 years. In terms of funding, there is an economic impact. The results of the census guide more than $675 billion in federal funds which are distributed through states and local communities. The communities use these funds for creating jobs, building roads, building schools, funding human services for seniors, children in need like Chip, SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare, fund educational programs like HeadStart, special education and 911 services. An accurate census count helps keep communities healthy and fed.
Each of us has a duty to ensure an accurate count. For my family its vital to take the time to fill out the census because part of the funding goes to free programs that our daughter benefits from like early childhood learning programs, aftercare, and family events within our community. The census also impacts the funding that goes into our public schools, which determines the quality of education our daughter receives. As a parent, knowing that my daughter is able to take advantage of programs that will help shape her future gives me hope- that our government does indeed care about our community.
The 2020 census form is simple and it only asks seven questions about each person in the household. The person who fills out the form is asked how many people live in the household and whether the home is owned or rented. The 2020 census will ask for the following information about each person: name, age, birth date, sex, race and whether they are of Hispanic or Latino origin. In homes with more than one resident, the census asks how everyone else in the home is related to the person who fills out the form – for example, if they are that person’s spouse, child or roommate.
There are many concerns about how the responses are kept private. The 2020 census is secure and protected by Federal Law. To be specific, Title 13 of the U.S. Code requires the Census Bureau to protect the personal information it collects and to keep it confidential. The responses can only be used for statistical purposes.
You can fill out your census online, by phone, or by paper. To avoid a visit from an enumerator–those who follow up with people who didn’t fill out the census online–at your home, fill out the 2020 census form online, by phone or by mail as soon as you receive your invitation to participate.
It’s so important for all communities to be represented and to receive needed federal funds. Make your voice heard by being counted.