By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions
Our constitution here in the United States requires that a census be conducted every 10 years to count every person living in our country no matter their age, race, ethnicity, or citizenship or immigration status. The mandate can be found in Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution.
The first census took place in 1790 with approximately 600 U.S. Marshals going door-to-door. They counted 3.9 million people. The census count in the 2010 Census was 309 million people.
With this being a year that ends in a 0, the 2020 Census is about to take place across the country.
Last week, representatives of AgeGuide Northeastern Illinois conducted an informational program on the 2020 Census at Lacey Creek, an affordable assisted living community that Gardant manages in Downers Grove, Illinois. AgeGuide is one of the more than 600 Area Agencies on Aging in the United States. The agency serves DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties.
The AgeGuide representatives explained why it is so important for each and every individual to be counted in the census; how and when everyone will be invited to participate; what questions will be asked; and the ways you can respond.
Why it is So Important to Be Counted
The census is not just used to gather information on the number of people living in the United States or in a particular city or state. Census data is used to determine how many seats in the U.S. House of Representatives each state gets. The results help determine the number and shape of federal and state legislative districts. The data will impact decisions over the next ten years on how billions of dollars in federal funding flows into states, counties, cities, towns and villages for infrastructure needs such as road construction and repairs; schools; health care services; and vital programs and services for older adults, veterans, and low-income individuals and families. To be sure your state and town gets its fair share of funding for projects, it is important that everyone be counted, including you.
How You Will Be Invited to Participate
On or between March 12 and 20, a letter will be sent to the vast majority of households in the United States. The letter will explain how you can respond. The letter from Census 2020 will also provide you with a unique Census 2020 identification number. You will need that number to respond.
Special procedures will be used to reach people who live in remote areas; do not receive mail at their home’s physical location but use PO Boxes instead; people who live in areas recently affected by natural disasters; students living in college or university housing; and individuals experiencing homelessness or living in nursing homes.
So starting in mid-March, check your mail for your census packet/letter. Keep in mind that delivery will be staggered, so not everyone will be receiving the packet/letter on the same day.
Reminder letters will be mailed on or between March 16 and March 24 and reminder postcards on or between March 26 and April 3.
In mid-April, the Census Bureau will mail a reminder letter and a paper copy of the census form to households who have not already responded.
A final reminder postcard will be sent toward the end of April, with 2020 Census workers following up in-person to households who have not yet responded.
Ways to Respond
There are three ways you can respond.
For the first time, you can go on-line. You can also respond by phone or wait until you receive a paper copy of the form in the mail in April.
If you plan to respond on-line or by phone, you can do so starting March 13. To respond, you will need to have received your unique 2020 Census ID number.
You can avoid having a Census worker knock on your door if you respond in one of these three ways.
What Questions Will Be Asked?
The representative from AgeGuide noted you will be asked nine questions. You will be asked for the number of people who live in the household and for your and their names, ages, dates of birth, sex, race and relationship to the person answering the questions. You also will be asked if you own or rent the place where you live and for your phone number so the 2020 Census can contact you if they have any questions about the information you provided. It should take about ten minutes. You will need your unique 2020 Census ID number to respond.
You will not be asked to provide any information about Social Security or Medicare Numbers, your bank accounts, citizenship or immigration status or political affiliations. Also, the Census Bureau will not send you any e-mails nor be calling you to say that you have not yet responded so we need for you to do so over the phone.
If anyone should call you saying they are from the Census Bureau and they start asking for personal information such as your Social Security number or banking information, it is a scam. Do not answer their questions. Hang-up.
Also, be on the look-out for letters about the census that request a donation. They are not legitimate.
How will the Information I Provide be Used
The Census Bureau will only be using the information that you and others provide to prepare statistical reports. They are bound by law to keep your answers confidential. They cannot share or release information they collect about you or others in your household to any individuals, businesses or organizations. They cannot share it with law enforcement agencies. They cannot even share it with any other federal government agencies or departments nor with any state agencies or departments.
Employees take an oath to protect your information for life.
How can I tell if someone knocking on my door is really from the Census Bureau; how can I tell if they are legitimate?
The person should have an ID Badge that includes their photo. You can also call the Census Bureau to verify if the person is legitimate.
Make a Plan
The representatives from AgeGuide recommend that you make a plan now for how you are going to respond to the Census. Are you going to participate on-line, by phone or completing the paper form when it is sent to your attention in April?
If you have any questions about the 2020 Census, any of the questions on the form or about how to respond, you can call the Census Bureau Customer Service Center 1-800-923-8282 or visit this website.
The AgeGuide website has information about the Census posted here.
For those living in Illinois, AgeGuide says you also can visit the Illinois Census website.