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CENSUS: This is where you count

by David Specht

Every ten years the government conducts a population count of everyone in the United States through the Decennial Census. “Data from the census provides the basis for distributing more than $675 billion in federal funds annually to communities across the country, that support vital programs such as impacting housing, education, transportation, employment, healthcare, and public policy,” the Census Bureau states. 

“They are also used to redraw the boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts and accurately determine the number of congressional seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

Sometime during mid to late March, people will begin the receive invitation by mail to take part in the census. For the first time ever, the Census Bureau is going to take responses on the internet and by phone. Mail-in responses will still be taken as well.

Part of the reason it is so important for as many people to take part in the Census as possible is because it only takes place for ten years. A lot of major decisions will be made in the oncoming decade based on this data, so it is increasingly important for the numbers to be as accurate as possible. 

Understandably, some people can be wary when people try to ask them for their personal information. However, in regards to the information collected by the Census, “Strict federal laws protect your census response. It is against the law for any Census Bureau employee to discuss or publish any census information that identifies an individual or business,” according to the Census Bureau.

“No law enforcement agency is can access or use your personal information at any time. Data collected can only be used for statistical purposes that help inform important decisions.”

Most importantly, the Census will never ask for social security numbers, bank or credit card account numbers, money, or anything on behalf of a political party.

When people think of a census, sometimes the image comes to mind of a person traveling door to door asking people personal questions. According to the Census Bureau, in 2020 95% of households will be able to complete the census online, by mail, or by phone. 

Of the remaining 5%, 4% of the households simply receive an invitation by having a census taker drop it off, but this is mostly for households that may not receive mail at their home’s physical location. 

Less than 1% of households are counted in person, and this is typically reserved for extremely remote areas like northern Maine, remote Alaska, and in select Native American areas that ask to be counted in person. They also have special procedures in place to count people who don’t live in households, such as students living in university housing or people experiencing homelessness. 

On April 1, Census Day will be observed nationwide. By this date, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, everyone should respond and tell the Census Bureau where they are located as of April 1, 2020.

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