Here Are the Basics About the 2020 U.S. Census
Starting in about a month, the U.S. Government will be reaching out to all of us to ask us questions about ourselves. So. to learn more about what is expected of us we went directly to the source, the U.S. Census Bureau.
“My name is Carol Bush, and I am a Partnership specialist with the United States Census bureau” Bush said. “My office is located in Elkins. The Census occurs every ten years and has occurred every ten years since 1790. It is mandated by the U.S. constitution and helps us determine Congressional representation and boundaries, as well as how over six hundred and seventy-five billion dollars is distributed to the U.S. States and Territories each year. And it’s how we get our Federal tax dollars back into our communities -funding for schools and for, transportation, roads, healthcare, businesses. These are the numbers that we operate off of.”
Carol, what is the timeline for the census?
“People are going to see a media outreach by the Federal Government to encourage folks to participate in the census -that should be going on now” Bush answered. “Also going on now, and to about March 6th, they will be doing what we call ‘group quarters,’ and that’s where we count people living in group housing situations, like correctional facilities, nursing homes, places like that. And then on March 12th, the Federal Government will start mailing out invitations to households to participate in self report on the census. And that will occur for the last couple of weeks in March.”
“And those folks who get their mail delivered to a Post Office box, somebody will hand-deliver that invitation” Bush said. “If somebody’s not home, they will leave it on the door. It will be a letter that has a census ID number on it. And so, what it is asking if for people to self-report, either on-line or using their phone. They can either call the number in and answer those questions, or if they wait a couple of weeks, the government will send them a paper survey they can fill-out and mail back in. They will have probably until the end of May to self-report. And for those people who for one reason or another don’t self-report, they can expect to have someone come knocking on their door, like the traditional Census Takers. In May, June and July, there will be people out (knocking on doors.) When census workers are out in your community, they will let law enforcement know, so that if you have somebody in the area unfamiliar, you can call and check it out. But the census workers will also have identification on them, and they should be wearing a shirt that id’s them as a census worker. That way, folks shouldn’t be fearful of opening the door, they’ll know this is legitimate.”
“The survey itself is just nine questions” said Bush. “Your name and your birthdate and you’ll have to identify a person as the head of the household, and then they report on every person living in that household. They will be asking how many people are living in the household; whether it is a house, and apartment or a mobile home; what that person’s gender is; and whether they own or rent their property. There are questions about what their race is. Very basic information. For people who are living in transitory situations. They don’t necessarily have to be related to the head of the household; they might maybe be registered someplace else to vote; they might be claimed on someone else’s tax return. But it is strictly about where they live and stay the majority of the time. That’s why there is some confusion about college students. The parents think that because they are on their tax return, or on their financial aid form, that they should be reporting that student on their census form, but the reality is the student lives the majority of the year wherever they are attending college, and so that’s where they are counted. So the reality is who’s living in that household at that time.”
So, once they fill that census form out, all that data is collected. It’s held confidentially. None of that information is shared, not even with other agencies -and that’s by law. And then it’s compiled and it’s given to the President on December 31st, 2020. The Senate and congress will find out early in 2021, and then the rest of us get to find out in the spring of 2021, whether we’ve gained population, lost population or stayed about the same.”