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Weekend Read: 2020 Census safe and easy, helps communities

This month kicks off a major — and vital — process that is fundamental to the success of our Democracy.

The 2020 U.S. Census count begins, with every household receiving an invitation to complete a simple questionnaire either online, by phone or by mail.

The census is more than fulfilling the constitutional requirement for a count of everyone living in the United States. It helps determine how more than $1.5 trillion in federal funding is divvied up to states and localities for needs including infrastructure, health care, social safety net programs and other federal programs.

The census also affects the number of representatives a state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and the districts they represent. Earlier this year, it was estimated that 17 states will be affected by the census, either by losing or gaining seats in Congress, as well as electoral votes.

The census affects the foundation of our everyday lives. And it has the ability to transform and empower communities. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to be counted, which is an easy process.

Filling out a census form can be done online, by mail or by phone in only 10 to 20 minutes. You can choose to respond by phone in 13 languages, or by TDD by dialing 844-467-2020. Information regarding the 2020 Census is being mailed to households over the next several days. A census taker can also come to your home.  

It’s also a safe process.

The Trump administration in 2019 attempted to include a question that would ask every household to record which family members are U.S. citizens, but that question will not be on the census form. Advocates defeated the effort by the Trump administration, which, remarkably, both sides agreed in court that adding the question would reduce the response rate – especially in immigrant communities.   

What’s more, the U.S. Census Bureau and federal law keep responses private and maintained in its cybersecurity systems.

Personal information doesn’t go to other federal departments, such as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

It doesn’t go to law enforcement.

It cannot be accessed by landlords.

It will not affect any public benefits a person currently receives.

In fact, it is illegal for the Census Bureau to share personal information for 72 years after it’s collected.        

However, failing to fill out a census form prevents your voice – and the voices within your community – from being heard when it comes to future policy decisions.

Renters, people living in poverty, people of color or people with limited English skills and their children – are most at risk of being harmed by failing to fill out the census form. Census data helps determine how much federal funding goes to programs like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Without census data, communities may go without necessary bus routes, older residents may not receive the assistance they need to afford heating in the winter, and schools may continue to lack much-needed books and computers.

When people are missing from the census, resources and political power are distributed somewhere else – somewhere that may already have more money, more services and more power.    

That’s why when it comes to the U.S. Census, we all need to say: #CountMeIn.

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