By Per Peterson
The turn of the decade means it’s time for another U.S. Census, and people who work with the Census are working to remind all residents of the importance of the event.
Sam Fettig, the Minnesota Partnership coordinator for the U.S. Census Bureau said there are a number of reasons everyone getting counted is important. Politically, the Census — which is mandated by the U.S. Constitution — determines how many seats each state receives in Congress, and is also used at state and local levels, as political boundaries are drawn after the Census is taken.
The Census also goes a long way in determining funding, such as grant distribution for things like economic development. Fettig said annually over $675 billion in funding that is given out is based directly on Census data. State and even county programs often use Census data to determine where money goes. And, Fettig added, businesses and non-profits typically use Census results to determine where to locate or target their outreach efforts to secure grant funding.
This year will mark the first time residents can respond to the Census online or over the phone. In 2010, people could call to get information or receive help in filling out their traditional paper form.
“We’re hoping going online will help people respond more quickly, more easily,” Fettig said. “It will also help make data processing easier on our end, so it will reduce costs. We’re hoping that people will use the online response as a first option, so we can get responses in more quickly.”
Fettig also said that the online version will include 12 languages, besides English, whereas in the past, traditional Census forms were offered only in English and Spanish.
The self-response portion of the Census will begin in mid-March; March 12 is when people should expect to get their first piece of Census mail. Homeowners who have not responded by mid-April will receive another piece of Census mail, and another reminder will be sent out at the end of April to those who still haven’t responded. After that, the canvassing begins, and Census workers will follow-up with non-responders.
“Census Day” is April 1. Redistricting counts will go out to states on March 31, 2021.
Locally, Rosemary Martin had originally volunteered to be the Census liaison for Tracy, but her recent cancer diagnosis is likely to prohibit her from doing much Census work. She wants anyone who has the time to help to step up for the important cause and become a member of the Tracy Complete Count Committee.
“Everyone needs to be accounted for,” she said. “We need to know who is in our state and who needs help. And the Census gives us an idea of how our Congressional districts need to be divided out. It impacts everything — education, our roads, commerce.”
Martin, who chairs the City’s Charter and Planning & Zoning Commissions, said leaving residents undocumented can cost a state billions of dollars in funding. Populations that make up most of the undercounted include children under the age of 5, renters, immigrants and refugees, non-English speakers, ethnic minorities, people living in poverty adult 18-34, senior citizens and snowbirds.
Fettig encourages anyone interested in helping out with the 2020 Census to email Census Partnership Specialist Jim Accurso at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fettig said being a Census worker can entail different things, including being a door-knocker, hosting a booth at a community event or even just spreading the word on social media. The importance of local people doing Census work cannot be understated, he said.
“If a neighbor is knocking on your door, you’re more likely to answer,” he said. “Even if you have a 9-to-5 job, you can do it because it’s so flexible. Just getting the word out is important.”