Answering the 2020 U.S. Census questions will be quick and easy, according to two specialists who visited Great Bend last Thursday to share information. Melinda Stanley and Carlos Urquilla-Diaz spoke to a small group at the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, then headed to Lincoln Elementary School to present their program in Spanish.
For the first time ever, the U.S. Census Bureau will accept responses online and by phone. It's still possible to do a written questionnaire by mail, but the other options are easier and reduce the expenses incurred by this event that happens once every 10 years, Urquilla-Diaz said.
Stanley said responders can help shape the future.
“The Big Picture for Kansas communities is really about the dollars,” she said. “What do you want Great Bend and Barton County to be like in 2030?”
The allocation of Federal funds — about $6 billion for the state of Kansas — is based on population estimates. At the local level, population counts are used to pursue grants and attract businesses, she said.
“When our population is counted in Kansas, we hope that we count everyone,” Stanley said. But when the last Census was done in 2010, there was a 74.6% national average response rate.
More than 55 programs are funded directly by U.S. Census numbers, Urquilla-Diaz said.
It is also part of everyone’s civic duty to participate in the Census, Urquilla-Diaz said. The Census itself is mandated in the U.S. Constitution.
“It’s in Article one, Section two, Paragraph three, and it basically says, ‘we’re going to count everybody who lives in the United States.’ In the Federalist Papers, Thomas Jefferson talks about why we count everybody. There are 39 signatures on the U.S. Constitution; 20% of those signatures came from immigrants. The rest of them were born in the colonies. Twenty percent of the founding fathers came from outside of the colonies. In other words, they were immigrants to the colonies, and therefore, for them, it was important that they be counted.”
The information provided remains confidential, Urquilla-Diaz said. The Census Bureau is bound by federal law to protect your information, and the data is used only for statistical purposes. Individual responses are compiled with information from other homes to produce statistics, which never identify your home or any person in your home.
The Census form is only 10 questions, including name, telephone number, age and race. It asks about every person living in the household on April 1, 2020.
The Census Bureau does not ask for a Social Security number, bank account information, or information about political party affiliation. The census form will not include any questions about a person’s religion or citizenship status.
Self-reporting starts around March 9. From March 12-20, most people will receive an invitation by mail to respond to the U.S. Census. The invitation will include a Census ID number that can be used to respond online or over the phone by April 1.
April 1 is the official “Census Day.” People who divide their time equally between two residences should use the address where they reside on April 1.
Follow-up to non-responsive individuals begins in May and data collection should be completed in August. On Dec. 31 the counts will be delivered to the President. In April of 2021, Congressional redistricting based on Census counts will take place.