Sitting out of the Census doesn’t just hurt you. It hurts your family and your community as well. The Census is a tool that can and should be wielded by communities working together to make sure that they are given the respect and attention that they deserve to thrive.
What is the Census?
The Census is a program that counts all of the people in the United States. That is all it does, it counts. It is a short survey that asks nine questions about you and your household. It covers how many people live at an address, as well as their names, sex, age, phone number, ethnicity, race, and relationships.
Here is what the Census is not. It is not a chance for the government to save your phone number for spam calls. It is not a database of all of the people in the United States that the FBI can use to find individuals for minor violations. It is not the first step in an ICE operation to find immigrants, and it definitely is not a trick to get your bank account information. In fact, the Census does not ask anything about income, education level, social security number, or your citizenship status.
An important word on Confidentiality.
No one outside of the Census Bureau will ever see your individual information. We know that, because the confidentiality protections on Census data today are the strongest they have ever been. The current Census Act prohibits employees of the Census Bureau from using Census data for any purpose that is not producing statics. This includes, but is not limited to sharing personal Census responses with officials from any other government agency. So, Census employees are NOT allowed to share your personally identifiable information with ICE, the FBI, or the Trump Administration. Doing so can lead an employee to be fined $250,000, up to five years in prison, or both. Even if those protections weren’t there, there are additional protections that prohibit government agencies from using Census Bureau data to harm an individual or household.
Who should complete the Census?
The Census should be completed by one person in the household for everyone who lives in that home. That doesn’t mean just direct family. It means everyone; renters, grandparents, family friends who just won’t leave, infants, etc.
If you don’t know the information for everyone in your household, try to get it before completing the Census, or just do the Census together! Try throwing a Census Party!
When does the Census happen?
The Census will officially be launched on March 12, 2020, so keep an eye out for a post card from the Census Bureau in your mail.
If you do not want to complete the Census online or by phone, you can wait until April 8, when the paper form of the Census will become available.
In May, if you still have not completed the Census, it is possible that a Census Enumerator will come to your home to help you to complete the form.
The Census is officially over in June of 2020.
How do I complete the Census?
There are three ways that you can complete the Census.
- Online – This year is the first year when everyone will be able to complete the Census online through THIS LINK. Remember, in order to complete the form online, you will need the User ID Number from the post card you received in the mail. The online form will be available in 13 languages.
- By Phone – If you are not comfortable completing the Census online, you can also do so over the phone. Phone support is available in 13 languages as well (phone numbers are available below).
- Paper Form – Starting April 8th, paper forms will be sent to those who have not yet completed the Census. The paper form will only be available in English and Spanish.
*While the online and phone options are only in 13 languages, there will be assistance forms available in 59 languages.
Why should I complete the Census?
The Census is an important tool in national decision making for two very important reasons: Money, and Representation. Every year, the Federal government allocates over $900 billion in funding throughout the country. The Census is what helps them to make final decisions about how much funding goes where. It also determines how many representatives each state has in Washington D.C. We rely on our representatives to fight for us to get the money we need, and the policies that support our interests. A low count on the Census will mean that California could lose seats in Congress, and thus lose our ability to influence decisions made there.
We all use services that are dependent on Census funding every day. We use roads to get to work every day, we go to hospitals when we get sick or hurt, and our children go to school. Many of us also depend on services like Section 8 Housing, SNAP, and Head Start. All of this is made harder by the fact that the Census only happens once in a decade. So, if there is a bad count on the Census, that means that the whole country will be stuck using bad data for the next ten years.
What Family Support Services is doing to help.
Family Support Services is feeling the pressure as we all approach the Census. The majority of the families that Family Support Services works with are “hard to count” populations, i.e. homeless families, families of color, families with children under the age of 5, families with children who have disabilities, and aging caregivers, and let’s be honest, all of these populations have very good reasons to not trust the government. However, if any of those populations are not counted, Family Support Services will suffer, because their contracts with county governments are dependent on population data. However, without accurate data, they will be unable to do their work, and the families who depend on them will be left without services.
In order to address this problem, Family Support Services will be offering support in completing the 2020 Census for our clients. If you have questions about the Census, you can call your Family Support Services contact, social worker, respite care coordinator, or program director. If you would like help actually completing the Census, we can help you out with that too. Our social workers are trained to help you to complete the Census during your home visits. You will also be able to set up an appointment to come in and do the Census with us any time during the normal work week, Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
We will also be setting up a special Saturday Completion Day for those who cannot make it to our office during the normal work week. The date is to TBD.
Still looking to learn more? Check out this video: