The U.S. Census Bureau is gearing up to do its decennial head count in 2020, with changes in the works to make it easier than ever to say “here.” Now, it’s down to local organizations to tell the public about these changes and to encourage their responses.

New for 2020, households can now respond to the census questionnaire online, in addition to responding by phone or mailing the questionnaire. You can even use your mobile device to respond.

“Responding to the 2020 Census will be easy for everyone to participate in,” according to Census Partnership Specialist Joe Burns. 

The census is required every 10 years under Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution and anyone living in the United States is required by law to complete the 2020 Census, regardless of citizenship status.

“Under Title 13 of U.S. Code, data is reported to the President of the United States in aggregate form only. Title 13 prohibits disclosure of any personal data to any individual or organization, making such disclosure a felony and providing a maximum penalty of $250,000 and/or five years in prison.

“The law requires the Census Bureau to keep your information confidential and use it only to produce statistics. We cannot publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you,” said Media Specialist Misty Slater who pointed out that Census Bureau workers take a lifetime, legally-binding oath never to disclose that information.

Census data is used to determine how $675 billion in federal funding is distributed, how congressional representation is appointed and how redistricting is done. Local governments use census data to identify where to allocate vital services and determine where to build new schools. Businesses use the data to determine where to open up shop.

“To date, the Census Bureau has engaged thousands of local and national organizations across the country to help spread the word that the 2020 Census is easy, safe, and important,” says Slater. “Our partners, who volunteer their time to help with the 2020 Census, serve as trusted voices and census ambassadors within their communities. They help raise awareness of the 2020 Census and mobilize their communities to respond.”

According to The George Washington University’s report Counting For Dollars 2020, in 2016 Idaho received $3.6 billion in federal funding, based on data derived from the 2010 Census.

“It is very important to count everyone in Idaho for congressional representation and for the federal funds that are directly allocated to Idaho based on census population numbers,” said Burns. 

In Payette County, local resources such as local libraries, faith-based organizations, chambers of commerce and local school districts are are helping inform residents.

“It is planned for 2020 Census Partnership Specialists and Recruiting Assistants to regularly be available at local libraries, Idaho Department of Labor offices and their job fairs, and other local events,” according to Burns. “Additionally, you will find census workers at local fairs, bazaars, and various community events across all counties in Idaho.”

The questionnaire is available in print in English and Spanish, with the online version offered in 13 languages and guides in 59 languages, American Sign Language and braille.

Census meeting times and places will be provided as information becomes available.

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