SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ for the first month
SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ for the first month.

2020 Census: Residents urged to submit count questionnaires

Vicky O. Misa

With so much upheaval from COVID-19 impacting nearly every aspect of life right now, April Fool's Day pranks were likely hitting an all-time low this year.

But, in all seriousness, residents have an important opportunity to impact the nation with just a few minutes of effort. Wednesday officially brought with it Census Day. So far, about 37.4 percent of Pottawatomie County residents have completed their census forms. Oklahoma responses by county in 2010 averaged between 41.3 percent and 71.6 percent. Oklahoma's average in responding to the 2020 Census count is 34.6 right now; the nation stands at 38.4 percent so far.

The U.S. Constitution mandates that the country count its population once every 10 years.

The 2020 Census has a significant affect on the country's various forms of government, Shawnee Forward's Economic Development Executive Director Tim Burg said.

“Census data is used to determine how many seats or state gets in Congress,” he said. “It can also be used by State and local officials to draw boundaries for congressional districts, state legislative districts and even school districts.”

Data from the census helps inform funding for key public services like education programs and schools, hospitals and healthcare, roads and bridges, and emergency and disaster response, according to 2020census.gov.

The results will inform how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP.

Burg said the goal is to count people once and only once, and in the right place according to where they live on that day.

“The 2020 Census is easy, and the questions are simple,” he said. “They want to know who is living in our area, their names, their gender, age, date of birth, ethnicity, relationship and where a person lives or stays somewhere else.”

The Census information is critical to area schools as it allows them to look into the future to determine how many new students could be headed their direction in the next few years, Burg explained.

“Future classroom overcrowding can be diminished or avoided,” he said, “and resources can be allocated in advance, if we will do our part by simply filling out the questionnaire.”

One of the things at stake with all of this is the amount of state funds Pottawatomie County will receive for reduced and free lunches.

“I doubt there are many who would argue that this isn’t a worthwhile reason to fill out their Census questionnaire,” Burg said. “There is more than $675 billion in Federal funding that is distributed to states and communities each year, and it is literally up to each of us to do our part to help our area gain a portion of those funds for our own area’s needs.”

He said there are also other benefits to the data collected.

“As an Economic Developer the Census data is a tool we use on a regular basis to provide our business prospects with a valid and trusted source of information that shows how our area is growing, and much more,” he said. “Often times decisions on where to locate a new retail store, a new industry or even make a capital investment to expand an existing company is partially made based upon the population and other demographic information in any area.”

Burg said the Census information provides the user with insight into the future by helping to determine what the availability of the workforce is in an area, how many are currently employed, if the number of consumers is growing and will continue to grow in the county.

“Even our local governments can use the information to help predict where they need to focus their efforts on expanding or enhancing their infrastructure, and or plan on where they should be providing more emergency first responders in our area,” he said.

“Each of the questions provides a specific connection to the funding our area can receive and the other aspects of what the data can help us achieve,” he said. “Keep in mind the better job each of us on our community does in gathering our area’s census data, the better of a job we do in shaping our own future.”

How to respond

Questionnaires can be completed online, by phone or by mail. To help, the Census Bureau also offers web pages and guides in 59 non-English languages, including American Sign Language, as well as guides in Braille and large print.

Most households received their invitation to respond to the 2020 Census between March 12 – 20. These official Census Bureau mailings will include detailed information and a Census ID for completing the Census online.

To submit answers online, visit my2020census.gov.

Census ID can be found on the letter or questionnaire received from the Census Bureau. However, residents can still respond even if they don't have a Census ID.

To submit by phone, call (844) 330-2020 between the hours of 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Eastern Time every day.

To submit by mail, fill out the form when it is received in the mail. Most households received their invitation to respond to the 2020 Census between March 12 – 20. These official Census Bureau mailings will include detailed information and a Census ID for completing the census online.

During this time, homes in areas that are less likely to respond online will receive a paper questionnaire (sometimes known as the census form).

All homes will receive a paper questionnaire if they do not first respond online or by phone.

When responding, use blue or black ink to fill in the questionnaire. Do not use a pencil.

When finished, return the questionnaire in the envelope provided.

Census callers

By April 1, most homes will have received an invitation to respond. Homes that have not already responded will receive a paper questionnaire in mid-April, the site reads.

From May through July, census takers will follow up in person with every home that has not responded to the census.

If nothing has been received from the Census Bureau yet, a resident can still respond online. Visit the online form and select “Start Questionnaire.” Below the ID field, click the link that says, “If you do not have a Census ID, click here.”

Beware of scams

In some circumstances, you may receive a call from the Census Bureau after responding, at the number you provided.

Census workers will occasionally follow up with homes to ask questions about their responses. The goal is to ensure that no person is left out of the census or counted in more than one place.

All responses are kept confidential. The 2020 Census caller will not ask about your financial information or Social Security number. They will only review the responses that you previously provided.

During the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will never ask for:

• Social Security number

• Money or donations

• Anything on behalf of a political party

• Bank or credit card account numbers

Additionally, there is no citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

If someone claiming to be from the Census Bureau makes contacts via email or phone and asks for one of these things, it's a scam; do not cooperate. The site states.

COVID-19, data-gathering

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, at 2020census.gov, the program is adapting or delaying some of its operations to protect the health and safety of staff and the public and make sure it gets the same population counted another way.

With the Census effort underway at the same time as shelter-at-home rules, the program is focused on protecting the public and its employees, as well as follow federal, state and local pandemic guidelines — all while seeking to achieve an accurate and complete count of all communities.

Based on continuing assessments of guidance from health authorities, the bureau has suspended 2020 Census field operations for two additional weeks — to April 15.

“The Census Bureau is taking this step to help protect the health and safety of the American public, Census Bureau employees, and everyone who will go through the hiring process for temporary census taker positions,” the site reads.

All 2020 Census field operations will continue to be monitored and evaluated; updates will be offered as needed.

For more information, visit 2020census.gov.

So far, about 37.4 percent of Pottawatomie County residents have submitted their 2020 Census responses.

Check it out

Timeline

Counting every person living in the United States is a massive undertaking, and efforts begin years in advance. Some of the key dates, as they are currently scheduled:

2020

January 21: The Census Bureau started counting the population in remote Alaska. The count officially began in the rural Alaskan village of Toksook Bay.

March 12 - March 20: Households received official Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail.

April 1: This is Census Day, a key reference date for the 2020 Census — not a deadline. We use this day to determine who is counted and where in the 2020 Census. When you respond, you'll tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020, and include everyone who usually lives and sleeps in your home. You can respond before or after that date. We encourage you to respond as soon as you can.

April 29 – May 1: The Census Bureau will count people who are experiencing homelessness over these three days. As part of this process, the Census Bureau counts people in shelters, at soup kitchens and mobile food vans, on the streets, and at non-sheltered, outdoor locations such as tent encampments.

April 16 – June 19: Census takers will work with administrators at colleges, senior centers, prisons, and other facilities that house large groups of people to make sure everyone is counted.

May 27 – August 14: Census takers will interview homes that haven't responded to the 2020 Census to help make sure everyone is counted.

December: The Census Bureau will deliver apportionment counts to the President and Congress as required by law.

2021

March 31: By this date, the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to the states. This information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.