The 2020 Census is underway. This critical civic function is taking place during the heart of the COVID-19 crisis, making it even more important for everyone to pitch in and get an accurate count. Fortunately, most people can fill out their form quickly online, reducing the need for door-to-door counting.
Every 10 years, the federal government uses the Census to count the number of people in each community, county, and state. The count then determines the amount of federal funding your community gets for housing programs, education, hospitals, healthcare and much more.
In 2015 for example, 132 government programs used census data to determine how to allocate more than $675 billion, much of it for programs that serve low-income families like Medicare and reduced-price school lunch programs. As a result, undercounts can deprive communities of the resources they need to thrive. Accurate counts are also critical during emergencies. First responders use census data to help identify where and how much help is needed, and public health personnel use census data when tracking disease outbreaks.
The Census also determines the number of seats a state has in the US House of Representatives. So similar to voting, completing your form is a fundamental part of being an American and determines how you’re represented in government. Fortunately, it’s really easy to do, especially this year now that you can complete your form online, and especially in New York where organizations like Association for a Better New York offer resources and reminders to help citizens.
Here’s what you need to complete your census form and be counted:
- Your invitation to complete the 2020 Census (here’s what it looks like) should have arrived in the mail by March 21. It includes your CENSUS ID.
- You can complete your form online using your CENSUS ID, or by phone at 1-844-330-2020.
- Beginning in May, census takers will begin visiting homes that haven’t responded yet. If you complete your Census now, census workers will not come to your door later.
- If you need assistance completing your Census form, call the Census Bureau Customer Service Center at 1-800-923-8282 or visit a census resource center – there are more than a dozen in New York City
The spread of the coronavirus has thrown uncertainty onto door-to-door visits by census takers and shifted the overall Census timeline. “More than ever, we want people to respond on their own,” says Joe Salvo, who is overseeing census outreach efforts in New York City as head of the Population Division at the NYC Department of City Planning. By responding to the census now, you reduce the need for in-person contact later during the in-person follow up phase, which will now begin on May 7. For the most accurate, up-to-date information about the Census timeline, visit my2020census.gov and see these operational adjustments due to COVID-19.
The Census is safe, secure, and confidential. The Census Bureau cannot release any information such as your name, your address, or anything else to anyone or any government agency, including law enforcement. There is no question about citizenship, nor will the Census ask for your social security number, bank account information, or political affiliations. If you receive a phone call, no information other than an address verification should be requested or given.
Do your part and get counted!