2020 Census – Nothing To Fear


Make Sure Every Man, Woman And Child Is In The Count

By Chaitram Aklu

Since 1790, when the first census or count of the residents in the U.S. took place, there has been a census every ten years in the year ending in 0. The census conducted by the Census Bureau is mandated by Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. Every man, woman, and child (including babies) has to be counted regardless of an individual’s legal status. Therefore an individual cannot be asked about their citizenship or legal status in the United States. And by law the Bureau “cannot share your information with immigration enforcement agencies, law enforcement agencies, or allow it to be used to determine your eligibility for government benefits.”

As such no one should be afraid of providing the information requested on the census form which can be done on one of four ways this year – online, by phone, on paper, or by a personal visit by a census employee. The census does not require and you cannot be asked to provide your social security number, give money or donations, or provide bank account or credit card numbers.

All census employees are sworn for their lifetime to protect confidentiality and anyone found guilty of violation of their oath can go to prison for up to five years and in addition fined up to $250 000. It should also be noted that all census takers will have identification badges and will never ask for your specific financial information.

The census, apart from being mandatory provides important data on population shifts and changes that occur, the basis on which apportionment of Federal funds are made across the 50 states. Raw data obtained from the census cannot be shared with other government agencies.

More than that, the census records living conditions by location, family size, income housing, ethnicity, and economic status. The data will determine how $675B will be allocated annually to areas where more people live and where there is the greatest need. That is how funds will be allocated for Medicaid, SNAP, Section 8 housing, highway planning, special needs grants, Title1 grants, National School Lunch Program, WIC, Head start, Foster Care, Health Center Programs. Federal funding also goes to hospitals and other emergency services, schools, job training centers, and public works projects such as maintaining bridges and buildings.

The data is also used to determine the number of U.S. Representatives for each state (Each of the 435 U.S. Congressional District is made up of at least 771,000 people.), State legislative districts, school districts and voting precincts so that all regions can have representation based on how many people live there.

In New York State, (Est. 2020 population 19,440,469) the number of U.S Representatives is now 27, determined directly on the 2010 census. This is down from 29 because children were grossly undercounted. And it is possible to go down further to 25 if there is an undercount because of low participation in the 2020 census. The state ranked 45th in the nation for census response rate.

New York City (Est. 2020 pop. 8,601,186) currently receives $679M to support schools with high poverty rates, $338M for the National School Lunch, and $143M for its School Breakfast Program. The number of homeless children in the city is about 70,000 who live with their families in shelters. This number has been increasing yearly over the past 20 years. The School Breakfast and Lunch Programs combined is a savior to them and others in low income families.

In the 2010 census the NYC count of 8,175,133 represented 61.6 percent of all residents in the City. The national average participation was 74 percent. Therefore for all the years from 2010 to 2020 estimations and projections of the number of people in NYC resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars, and if there is low participation again in this census, hundreds of millions more dollars will go elsewhere.
How will residents be contacted? The census bureau has about 145 million addresses in its database.

Several attempts will be made to get everyone to participate.

1. March 12 – 20, households across the nation will receive pertinent information including the online questionnaire and can respond online at www.2020census.gov.

The form asks 9 questions and if more than one person lives at that address an additional form must be completed for each person – including babies, who live and sleep at each residence. All households will also receive paper questionnaires. However you only have to respond once in one way, as the purpose is to count every person living in the U.S. once, only once, and in the right place.

2. March 16 – 24. A reminder letter will be sent if no response.

3. March 26 – April 3. If there is no response a reminder postcard will be mailed.

4. April 8 -16. If there is still no response a reminder letter and paper questionnaire will be sent out.

5. Mid-May – July. If still no response a census taker with identification will visit to complete the count using a GPS handheld computer.

The census is everybody’s business and all individuals and Community Based Organizations – local leaders, activists, religious organizations and houses of worship – should play an active role to produce the largest possible response in completing the questionnaire. Since services that benefit children are most underfunded at present because of undercount in the 2010 census, parents and adults should make sure that they include all children in the count.

Remember: A form must be completed for each person – including babies. The first ten tears of their lives depend on this count.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the THE WEST INDIAN.