March 11, 2020 – It’s time once again to stand up and be counted.
Beginning March 12, Oregonians will start to receive “invitations” from the U.S. Census Bureau in their home mail delivery. This invitation will ask that households go online to respond to a series of questions asking for household information regarding the ages, number of residents and gender of all of those living in each household.
The answers to these questions are critical to future programs and efforts in a wide variety of categories. Households can also contact the Census Bureau by phone or respond using traditional paper questionnaires.
The official count for this year’s Census begins April 1, but the federal government wants to get a head start on the process by providing an early opportunity for citizens to complete the Census survey.
The Census Bureau is required, by law, to collect information related to every person living in America every 10 years.
The information gathered in the 2020 Census will be used to determine action or spending on an array of issues which effect nearly every aspect of our lives.
Perhaps most importantly, seats in the House of Representatives are allocated by the number of citizens in a particular area of the state, which is referred to as a district. These districts can expand or contract based on the number of individuals living there.
Oregon has had five U.S. Congressional Districts since 1982, and these district boundaries have been redrawn incorporating the new data collected after the 1990, 2000 and 2010 Censuses.
The importance of collecting accurate and current information is essential; in addition to representation, there are billions of dollars in funding allocated according to the numbers of individuals in a county or state.
Florence resident Suzy Lacer is a member of the Lane County Complete Count Committee and in an email response to the Siuslaw News said, “The Census needs to count everyone (all ages, college students living on campus, immigrants, non-residents, family members, roommates, newborns, renters, couch surfers and grandparents) that lives at each address, effective April 1.
“Lane County and rural areas had low response rates during the last Census. We need to get an accurate count this time.”
Accurate counts ensure that funding is equitably distributed among the 50 states, based on need and participation levels. Medicaid, the National School Lunch Program, Headstart and grants for special education, highway planning and construction also receive funding based on Census data.
One of the major concerns that has been shared by the public regarding participation in the Census is the fear that information gained will be used to target undocumented individuals and force them to leave the United States.
This scenario is unlikely and illegal, as Congress has made a point of protecting the information and individuals that participate. This is because the U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect respondents’ answers and keep them strictly confidential. The law ensures that private information is never published and that answers cannot be used against participating individuals by any government agency or court.
These concerns were heightened last year when there was an attempt made by the federal administration to add a question regarding citizenship status to the 2020 Census. The response from the public, government officials and the courts were overwhelmingly opposed to the idea and, after months of insisting on the inclusion, the administration dropped its demand.
The idea that every household in the country will be contacted and interviewed has been a focus of the federal government and the founding fathers since the beginning of the U.S. republic. The mandate to count every person in America is codified in Article 1, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution and the nationwide count has taken place every 10 years since 1790. The first Census was conducted by riders on horseback and was one of the first things Congress instructed the new government to do. The methodology used to obtain Census data has changed during the past 200 years, but the importance of the count has only increased over that time period.
Respondents to the 2020 Census can fill out the questionnaire for their household online, via mobile device, by telephone or by simply answering the questions asked by a Census taker at their home.
Census takers can be identified by a valid ID badge, with photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date.
For more information on the 2020 U.S. Census, visit 2020census.gov.