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‘Extremely important’

As the U.S. Census rolls out next week, officials stress its far-reaching implications

The U.S. government is trying to get a head count, and they are going to need your help. Starting March 12, households across the country are expected to participate in the once-a-decade national head count – the U.S. Census.

“I would describe it as getting an accurate count of everyone in the U.S.,” said Toni Landers, Afton City Clerk.

The data from the U.S. census decides political representation in government and how nearly $675 billion in federal tax dollars are distributed. Locally, results of the census affect everything from potholes to health insurance to education.

“It helps locally because some of the funds we get, such as road use funds to fix our streets are based on our population count, so the more accurate of a count we can get, the more money we can get to work on our streets.”

The funding of the Highway Planning and Construction Program which supports the planning, construction and maintenance of highways and bridges relies on the Census count. Census data is also used to apportion federal funding streams for Medicaid, SNAP, Section 8 Housing voucher program, Head Start, Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the U.S. Department of Education’s two largest elementary and secondary programs – Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (special education).

“It’s extremely important that we have an accurate count, especially locally, federally too, but a lot of funds are based on head count,” Landers said.

Online, mail or phone

Landers said, next week, households will begin receiving in formation in the mail on how to participate in the U.S. Census.

“This is the first year the census survey will be available entirely online,” said Maureen Schriner with the U.S. Census Bureau.

Based on a trial run, the Census Bureau is expecting six out of every 10 households to complete the survey online. Households can also participate by phone or mail.

“People can reply almost anywhere, at any time,” Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham said last month in a written statement to lawmakers on the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

To keep up to date on the U.S. Census or to participate online, households are asked to visit www.my2020census.gov online.

What to expect

The census is not the American Community Survey, which goes to one in 38 households and is also conducted by the Census Bureau. 

The U.S. Census includes questions such as how many people live or stay in the household as of April 1, what type of residence it is (house, apartment, mobile home), the relationship of the individuals in the household, and their names, ages, sex and race.

Despite the Trump administration’s request to include a question about citizenship, it was permanently blocked by federal courts and will not be included on the 2020 census. However, the census still counts every person living in the country – including unauthorized immigrants and green card holders. Federal law also prohibits the Census Bureau from inquiring about an individual’s religious affiliation, political affiliation or income.

Additionally, individual identifiable data is confidential for 72 years after its collected. The information provided to the U.S. Census Bureau is transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration. Federal law prohibits access to this information for the aforementioned time frame. Only information about demographic groups at a neighborhood level can be released.

To see a list of the questions on the U.S. Census, sign up for alerts, or to complete the U.S. Census online, visit www.my2020census.gov or call 1-800-923-8282 or TTYL at 1-800-877-8339.

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