Make yourself count: April 1, 2020
What is the census? The census is a self-portrait of the nation. The U.S. Constitution requires the federal government count everyone living in the country every 10 years. The tally must include people of all ages, races, and ethnic groups; all citizens and non-citizens. Every household should complete a census form (either online, or by mail or phone) by April 1, 2020. Participating in the census is our right and responsibility.
Why does the census matter?
Census data shape the future of our community and define our voice in Congress.
- The 2020 Census will determine how more than $700 billion in federal government resources will be distributed each year for the next decade to states and localities.
- Census data is used to determine where schools, roads, hospitals, child care centers, senior centers and other services should be built.
- Key federal programs rely on data and allocations derived from the census, including:
- Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicare Part B, Highway Planning and Construction, Section 8, Title I Grants, Special Education Grants (IDEA), State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Head Start.
- Census data are also used for apportionment of Congressional seats and redistricting at all levels of government.
- Census data are indispensable for monitoring discrimination and the enforcement of a broad range of civil rights laws.
Be prepared for these key changes to the 2020 Census:
- Internet Response: While a paper form will still be available, for the first time the Internet will be the primary response option. Individuals will be able to respond to the 2020 Census online, or by phone or mail.
- Home Visits: For the 2020 Census, the U.S. Census Bureau will only visit homes that do not respond to the census. Census takers, also known as enumerators, will visit households that did not respond starting in late-April through early-July of 2020.
- Citizenship Question: The Commerce Department has added a last-minute untested question that asks about the citizenship status of residents. This question has not been included in the census since 1950, and it is currently under debate and being litigated.
- Two-Part Race & Ethnicity Question: The Bureau will continue to use two separate questions to collect data on race and ethnicity despite its own research showing a single, combined Hispanic origin and race question would have obtained better data.
- Fewer Resources for Bureau: The Census Bureau has been mandated by Congress to conduct the 2020 Census at a lower cost per household than in 2010, which means there will be fewer outreach efforts than in 2010 to inform the public about the census. This also means fewer local census offices, field staff, and overall field “presence” in 2020.
- Fewer Field Tests: Congress has underfunded the Census Bureau for the past several years, which has caused delays and cancellations of tests in several hard-to count places, including Puerto Rico.
Will my information be kept confidential?
- Yes. Under the law, Census data can only be used for statistical purposes. Title 13 of the U.S. Code requires respondent’s information to be kept confidential, and guarantees personal information will not be used against respondents in court or by a government agency.
- Personal census information cannot be disclosed for 72 years (including names, addresses, and telephone numbers).
- Census Bureau staff who have access to personal information are sworn for life to protect confidentiality, and are subject to a $250,000 fine and/or up to five years in federal prison for wrongful disclosure of information.
When and how do I complete my 2020 Census Form?
- It is very easy. In March 2020, every household will receive a mailing from the U.S. Census Bureau with instructions to visit their website. Upon logging onto the Bureau’s website, each household will fill out a simple 10-question form.
- Every person, including children, residing in the household needs to be included on the form in order to be counted.
- The information that will need to be provided includes: name, relationship to head of household, gender, age, birthday, Hispanic origin and race, and status as a home owner or renter.
- The form can be completed in about 10 minutes. If a household does not respond, the Census Bureau will mail two reminders and a paper census form in the fourth mailing.
- Other options for completing the form via telephone or mail will be available. Individuals can call (888) 839-8632 for more information.
- If a household does not submit a completed census form, then the Census Bureau will send an enumerator to that address to collect the information in person. Completing a census form early is the best way to avoid having an enumerator visit your home.