10 things to know about the 2020 census

How to participate, and why you should get counted


The 2020 U.S. census will begin soon, and it is already underway in some remote parts of the country. Communities across the U.S. are coming together to get “complete counts” in order to have accurate results in this year’s survey, which will then be used for the next decade. The following 10 facts come from a public session at the Patchogue-Medford Library and from the U.S. Census Bureau website:

Everyone needs to be counted.

It is in the Constitution that a nationwide census be performed every 10 years. Every person living in the United States must be counted, and counted only once. This includes service members; infants born after April 1; those experiencing homelessness; and those living in Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

There are four ways to take the survey.

For the first time, the U.S. census can be taken online and over the phone. You will get an invitation between March 12 and 20 with a code directing you to the online portal. It is also possible to take the survey by phone, by mailing in the form or in person.

You can prevent someone from knocking at your door.

If you don’t want a visit from a Census Bureau worker, you should plan to take the census online, by phone or by mail. According to a timeline from the Census Bureau, reminders will be sent out several times by mail between March 12 and April 30. If you still haven’t responded, you could be called on by census takers, who will begin visiting homes to try to get complete counts.

The questions are simple.

The census survey asks only 10 questions. It will ask your name, age and sex and the number of people living in your home. It will also ask your race and Hispanic origin and whether you own the home you’re in. A sample version of the survey can be found at www.2020census.gov.

The data directly applies to hundreds of billions in federal money.

The census results will direct federal agencies and Congress on how to spend billions in federal projects. These include the school lunch program, highway construction, Head Start, child care and more. The census results will impact these programs for a decade, until another count is performed.

The results could change your representation in Congress.

The data is used to establish congressional districts in every area of the country. Getting everyone counted ensures adequate representation in Congress, which also impacts the number of electoral votes a state has in a presidential election. Redistricting will begin around March 2021 and will not apply to the 2020 election cycle.

The data is also used by local governments and private businesses.

Aside from direct spending at the federal level, census data is used to decide how state governments spend money. It also can be used by private businesses to do market research in a prospective interest area.

All of your information is confidential and secure.

Census workers are bound by law not to share your private information. 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. The law ensures that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. You are also anonymous: The Bureau cannot release your responses in any way that would identify you. Offense of Title 13 is punishable by a hefty fine or jail time, or both. The online survey is designed to protect against cyber threats; the Census Bureau has a top IT infrastructure to protect your information.

There are questions it will never ask.

The Census Bureau will never ask for your social security number, money or donations and bank or credit card information. If someone comes to your home, check to make sure that the person has a valid ID badge with a photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date. If you are still unsure, call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative.

You can get a job with the Census Bureau.

The Census Bureau is hiring census takers right now, and you can apply online. Jobs have flexible hours, weekly pay and paid training. Visit the job site for more information or to apply: www.2020census.gov/jobs.  


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