The deadline for self-reporting on the 2020 census has been extended to Oct. 31. The United States has been taking a census for 230 years, beginning when our Founding Fathers put it in the Constitution. According to Pedro M. Guilarte, from the U.S. Census Bureau, the census is more than just a method to count the people. It is to see where we are as a country, as a group, as a population. Where are we weak? What are the issues? The answers to the questions on the census help communities determine the needs they will have coming up in the future. Do we need to build a new school? Is our hospital large enough to meet the needs of the community?
In the last 30 years or so, there has been another reason to complete the census, and that is the federal government is sending money back to your community based on the results of the census. We all know we pay our taxes. We send money to Washington, through payroll deductions or quarterly payments if you are self-employed. We all know how it gets to Washington, but how does it get back? Largely, it is by population count.
Results from the census are used to reapportion the U.S. House of Representatives to determine how many seats each state gets. At the state level, officials use the results to redraw the boundaries of the congressional and state legislative districts, adapting to population shifts. Local governments use the census data for public safety and emergency preparedness.
In the private sector, census data can be a crucial factor when companies are deciding where to open their next store, factory or office. Real estate developers use the census when deciding where to build new homes and when to revitalize old neighborhoods.
The census is completely confidential, and the information is not shared with any other government agency. You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to be counted. All information supplied to the census bureau remains confidential for 72 years before being released to the public.
This year, each community will get an average of $1,600 per person who fills out the census. This money comes in the form of funding for government programs such as Medicaid. There are 330 federal programs for which Washington allocates money, and the money is sent back to our communities based on population counts.
If you have not completed the census yet, you can do so by going online to 2020census.gov. If you received a code in the mail, use it when you sign in, but if you did not get the card with a code on it, you can still fill it out without one.
You can also complete the census by phone or by mail. If you would like to respond by telephone, the number is 844-330-2020.
Richard Marion contributed to this story.