May 25, 2019 — One of the items on the May 20 Florence City Council agenda was an an early reminder from a representative of the U.S. Census Bureau that the data from next year’s census can dramatically impact smaller communities like Florence.
James Graham is a partnership specialist with the Census Bureau who works with communities to assist them in obtaining the most accurate census data possible.
According to Graham, there are far-reaching effects of the information gathered at the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census.
The U.S. Constitution mandates that everyone in the country be counted every 10 years and the first census was taken in 1790.
“$675 billion in federal funding is allocated based on census data. In Oregon that that is about $13.5 billion,” Graham said. “It goes to transportation, roads, bridges, waterways and rail. The rebuild project on Highway 101 was probably related to census data, indicating there was a population need in Florence and all along the coast.”
The importance of obtaining accurate information, and the safeguarding of that information, was another issue highlighted by Graham.
There is currently a case pending before the Supreme Court that questions the legality of the federal administration’s plan to add a question to the 2020 Census which asks respondents if they are residents. The case will be decided this term, and Graham stated his belief that the decision will not change the way the Census Bureau handles information. According to its website, the law requires the Census Bureau to keep everyone’s information confidential. By law, responses cannot be used against individuals by any government agency or court in any way.
“As a Census Bureau employee, I have taken an oath, under Title 13 and Title 26, if I disclose identifying information … I could go up river for five years,” Graham said. “The data that people provide, regardless of whether it is ‘Yes, I am a citizen,’ or ‘No, I am not a citizen’ — that data is going to be held in confidence and it is going to be guarded by the Census Bureau for 72 years.”
The Census Bureau will not share an individual’s responses with immigration enforcement agencies, law enforcement agencies, or allow that information to be used to determine eligibility for government benefits. Title 13 makes it very clear that the data collected can only be used for statistical purposes; the bureau cannot allow it to be used for anything else, including law enforcement.
During his presentation, Graham also told the council that for the first time, people can assist with the accurate gathering of data by going online and self-reporting the information for their household.
This is an option that was put in place to increase participation levels in certain populations that have traditionally been under reported, like multi-generational households, children and lower wage earners. It also provides an option for those who do not use the U.S. Postal Service.
Using the self-reporting option will also eliminate the need for a Census worker, or “enumerator,” from having to stop at a person’s house.
“It’s important to self-respond if you don’t want someone from the Census to come knocking on your door,” Graham said. “The easiest, safest and best way is to completely and fully complete the Census, and no one will come knocking on your door.”
Graham also wanted members of the community who might be seeking work to know that there will be a number of positions available beginning this summer, and increasing in numbers, as the April 2020 census date approaches.
He also commented positively on the data received from Florence during the last census and encouraged the council to recreate the template that was responsible for raising awareness and participation levels among the population of the Florence.
The impact of the information gathered cannot be overstated as in fiscal year 2016, Oregon received $13,452,034,877 through 55 federal spending programs, guided by data derived from the 2010 Census.
For more information, visit census.gov or listen to Graham’s presentation to the Florence City Council at www.ci.florence.or.us/council/city-council-meeting-168.