Editor's note: Preparations have been years in the making, but today is Census Day. A Civil Conversation scheduled last month by Advancing Voices of Women was canceled because of COVID-19 restrictions, so AVOW and The Journal Gazette partnered for this virtual version of the event, inviting questions about the census.
Community liaison, City of Fort Wayne Community Development
Q. How will the census be affected by COVID-19?
A. Based on continuing assessments of guidance from federal, state and local health authorities, the U.S. Census Bureau is suspending 2020 census field operations for two additional weeks to April 15, 2020. The Census Bureau is taking this step to help protect the health and safety of the American public. The 2020 census is open for self-response online at my2020census.gov and over the phone.
Today more than ever it is imperative that everyone is counted. We are encouraging and depending on all residents in Fort Wayne/Allen County to make available programs that directly affect and support our loved ones during the next 10 years. That's funding for our schools, college financial aid, medical care, mental health services, food assistance, housing, public transportation, fire management assistance grants and many other benefits.
Q. How does the census affect money?
A. There is over $675 billion in federal funds at stake every year. This money is spent on schools, hospitals, roads, public works and other vital programs essential to the community. When you respond to the census, you help your community get its fair share of the funds. Fort Wayne's residents have the opportunity to have everyone counted by encouraging family, neighbors and friends to fill out the questionnaire as soon as possible. The census also influences the number of representatives we have at the Statehouse in Indianapolis, how many representatives in Washington, D.C., and is used to redraw district boundaries.
Q. I don't understand the connection between completing the census and how it benefits my community.
A. Your community benefits the most when everyone is counted. Businesses use census data to decide where to build factories, offices and stores, and this creates jobs. Developers use the census to build new homes and revitalize old neighborhoods. Local government uses the census for public safety and emergency preparedness. Residents use the census to support community initiatives involving legislation, quality of life and consumer advocacy. Federal funds, grants, and support to states, counties and communities are based on population totals and breakdowns by sex, age, race and other factors.
Q. Are they still hiring people to help with the census? If so, where do I apply?
A. The census continues to hire. You can go to 2020census.gov/jobs to apply. There are 33 questions and no résumé is required.
Q. What accommodation is made for people who are blind or illiterate?
A. There is a large-print guide available and a Braille (.bft) file for readers/downloads for embossers. There is an option to respond by phone for those who may prefer speaking to someone.
Q. Who counts people living in nursing homes, group homes, jails, etc.?
A. People living in nursing homes, group homes, jails, prisons, colleges and universities fall under group quarter enumeration. In February 2020 the Census Bureau contacted group quarter administrators to obtain important identifying information about their facilities to assist with the enumeration process. During that time, a date and time was scheduled for the group quarter administrator to conduct enumeration and a preferred enumeration method was selected.
Q. How will the homeless and those living in temporary shelters or in their cars be counted?
A. The Census Bureau will devote three days to counting people who are experiencing homelessness across the country, with checks in place to ensure that people aren't counted more than once. These steps follow months of outreach and coordination with local census offices, partners, shelter directors, service providers and others.
Executive director, Amani Family Services, Inc.
Q. I filled out the census online and am curious about the “ethnicity” question. I am white, non-Hispanic and it asked me my heritage. What does that have to do with anything?
A. The vocabulary used in the United States for race, ethnicity and heritage is confusing to most people who were born outside the United States. The agreed-upon words of the U.S. census form are manmade and mostly not supported by scientific or anthropological evidence. They come from a need to “categorize” the population for statistical reason. Most of us who grew up outside the United States (Paxia is Italian by birth) were taught in school that there exists only one race, the human race. In less polyethnic societies, we also paid less attention to ethnicity or ethnic origin.
Q. Will they use my nationality against me?
A.The census helps us portray a picture of the U.S. population. One could argue that knowing the geographic origin of residents and citizens helps paint a more complete picture.
Unfortunately, minorities have been feeling under attack as individuals motivated by bigotry and white supremacy have shown a loud and hateful side of America. ... Perception becomes reality when embraced at the leadership level or in crises.
Q. I have dual citizenship. Should I fill out the census?
A. Dual citizenship and residence are not the same thing. The census is for everyone who is in the United States, regardless of immigration status. Thus, it is a picture of who is in the territory at any given time. What if the immigrant, refugee, permanent resident population was to not fill out the form? Can you imagine what a distorted picture that would be of America today?
Q. I don't trust that this information is confidential. Why should I?
A. Governmental actions reducing the refugee program numbers, implementing wider deportation policies, changing the process of asylum requests at the U.S.-Mexican border, separating children from parents and the travel ban bills have created a perceived picture of a government that questions altogether the presence of immigrants and refugees, particularly from “some” countries. Then there is the language. Each immigrant wakes up every day in a country (the United States) where we have families, jobs, friends and we are building legacy, a future and a past, impacting our communities. ...
While we call the U.S. our home, we also are subject to culture shock or grief. Unexpectedly, inevitably, we may feel like we do not belong. We do not belong here (we may feel one day) and we do not fully belong in the country we left five or 20 years ago. These are deep feelings people carry in various individualized ways. Immigrants have, in the millions, contributed to the richness and beauty of our country. Nevertheless, the same sense of belonging can be shattered by the insensitive use of language, especially when it comes from our leaders. Therefore, yes, there is fear in many non-U.S. born residents that information may be used against them, even if history has shown us otherwise in the case of the census.
Senior partnership specialist,
Chicago Regional Census Center,
U.S. Census Bureau
Q. Why have I received four census forms to the same address in the mail this week? My original form has already been filled out and sent in. This seems wasteful.
A. You will receive multiple mailings from the Census Bureau in March and April. This will include an invitation to respond as well as follow-up postcards and letters. If you have responded, it may be that the letter or postcard was already processed and in the mail system before your census was completed.
Q. I don't trust that this information is confidential. Why should I?
A. The Census Bureau and its employees are bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to keep your information confidential. This law protects your answers to the 2020 census. Under Title 13, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home or your business, even to law enforcement agencies. The law ensures that your private data is protected and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. Violating Title 13 is a federal crime, punishable by prison time and/or a fine of up to $250,000.
Q. Are Americans living overseas (expatriates) counted in the census?
A. No, people living outside the United States on Census Day who are not military or civilian employees of the U.S. government and are not dependents living with military or civilian employees of the U.S. government are not counted.
Q. Given how easy it is to hack the internet today, how can I be sure my information won't be stolen?
A. From the beginning of the data collection process, the Census Bureau follows industry best practices and federal requirements to protect your data. The security of Census Bureau systems is a top priority, and our IT infrastructure is designed to defend against and contain cyberthreats. We continually refine our approach to identifying, preventing, detecting and responding to these threats.
Help & FAQs: We want to make sure you have answers to all your questions about the 2020 Census.