2020, the dawn of the new decade, also kicked off the 2020 U.S. Census. The 2020 U.S. Census kicked off in January with the U.S. Census Bureau beginning the count in a remote village in Alaska. This year’s census will be the 24th census that America has taken since 1790.

Some of you may have questions about the census, such as what is the census, who is required to participate, why is it important, how you participate in the census, is my personal information safe, and what is asked on the census forms.

What is the Census?

The census is an official count of the population of the United States and five U.S. territories: Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency, conducts the constitutionally mandated census every ten years. This official population count provides a snapshot of the nation and highlights trends in the population.

Who is Required to Respond?

By law, everyone living the United States and its five territories is required to respond and be counted in the 2020 Census. This includes both citizens and non-citizens.

Why is the Census Important?

Why is it so crucial that all individuals who reside in the United States or in one of the U.S. territories respond to and participate in the census? Because the personal information and data that is compiled during the census is used for statistical purposes that help determine congressional representation and guide decisions as to distribution programs for hundreds of billions in federal funding every year. Census results can have a dramatic impact on funding decisions and affect a number of areas including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, school lunches, highway plans, public transit systems, and affordable housing programs.

State and local officials also use the results of the census to draw boundaries for state legislatures and school districts.

Additionally, business owners often rely on the census results to help them make informed decisions such as determining where the business should open new stores, where to recruit employees, and which products and services they should offer to the community.

In other words, the census is important because you have an opportunity to have a positive impact on your local community and its future.

How do I Participate in the Census?

Participating in the 2020 U.S. Census is easy. You simply answer a short questionnaire about yourself and anyone who is or will be living with you on April 1, 2020. The 2020 Census is the first time you can choose to respond to the questionnaire online, by mail, or by phone.

You can complete the census online or by phone in thirteen different languages: English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Japanese.

The paper questionnaires will be available in English and Spanish.

Privacy Concerns: Is My Personal Information Protected?

One reason that people may give for not participating in the survey is that they fear their personal information will not be safe. Another reason people do not participate in the census is that they fear their personal information will be used against them. While these are reasonable fears, the Census Bureau has tried to alleviate them. The Census Bureau takes significant steps to protect all personal information collected during the census confidential. Additionally, the Census Bureau is bound by federal law to protect any information that is collected during the census. Title 13 of the U.S. Code prevents the Census Bureau from releasing any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies, ensuring that your private data is protected and a governmental agency or a court cannot use your answers against you. Violating this law is a federal crime that is punishable by prison time and/or a fine of up to $250,000. Additionally, each employee of the Census Bureau takes an oath to protect all personal information for life.

Content of Census Questionnaire

The census questionnaire asks a series of questions designed to gather information about communities across America and the people who call these places their home. The questionnaire asks questions about yourself and any person who is or will be living with you on April 1, 2020. Here is summary of the questions and the type of information the Census Bureau is requesting on the official United States 2020 Census Questionnaire:

–       How many people were living or staying in this home on April 1, 2020?

–       This question is designed to include anyone living and sleeping in the home most of the time, even if the person(s) was staying there temporarily.

–       Answering this question honestly helps count the population and ensures that the count accurately reflects the amount of people residing in each community.

–       Were there any additional people staying here on April 1, 2020, that you did not include in Question 1?

–       This question is designed to make sure each person is only counted once and counted in the right place.

–       Is this home owned by you or someone in this household with a mortgage or loan? Is it owned by you or someone in this household free and clear? Rented? Occupied without payment of rent?

–       This question is designed to help produce statistics about home ownership and renting which also helps with administering housing programs, planning, and decision-making.

–       What is your telephone number?

–       The Census Bureau only asks for a phone number in case there are questions about your census questionnaire.

–       The Census Bureau will only contact you for official census business.

–       What is the name, gender, date of birth, age, race and ethnicity of each person in the home?

–       These questions are designed to help generate statistics used in planning and funding government programs.

–       These questions also help produce data that can be used to enforce laws, regulations, and policies that are in place to prevent and prohibit discrimination.

Staying Safe and Avoiding Scams

During, the 2020 Census the Census Bureau will never ask you for:

–       Your Social Security number

–       Money or donations

–       Anything on behalf of a political party

–       Your bank or credit card account numbers

–       Your citizenship status

Additionally, the Census Bureau will not send any unsolicited emails to request that you participate in the 2020 Census.

Some areas of the country still have limited online access and a census worker may come to your home in an attempt to collect a response for the 2020 census. If a census worker comes to your home and you have concerns about their identity, there are a number of things you can do to verify their identity. First, you should check to make sure they have a valid ID badge with their photo, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. If you still have concerns that this person is not representing the Census Bureau you can call 844-330-2020 to speak with a Census Bureau representative who can verify their identity.

If you would like more information about the 2020 U.S. Census, you can visit https://2020census.gov. Also, please keep in mind the results of the 2020 U.S. Census can have a huge impact on your community’s future. Please be sure to complete your 2020 U.S. Census questionnaire in a timely manner and encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to do the same.

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