7 ways your Census participation benefits our entire community
The 2020 U.S. Census: 10 short questions with a massive impact
For The Post Independent
Editor’s Note: Sponsored content brought to you by the Aspen to Parachute Complete Count Committee
Getting counted in the U.S. Census is a way to make your voice heard at the local, state and federal level. Your participation influences everything from political representation to important public community services. Don’t sit in silence, help your community! The U.S. Census is completely safe and your personal information is confidential.
If you live in the United States — regardless of whether you were born here or what your immigration status is — you’re required by law to be counted in the 2020 U.S. Census. There are just 10 questions, estimated to take about 10 minutes to complete.
Since 1790, the U.S. Census count has impacted everything from political representation in Congress to federal funding for essential public services.
Roaring Fork and Colorado River Valley municipalities and other stakeholders formed the Aspen to Parachute Complete Count Committee as a collaborative effort to increase census participation in our valley. Through its “Together We Count” campaign, the committee’s goal is to debunk myths and ease fears about the census.
Since the census count only happens once every 10 years, let this list serve as a reminder why you shouldn’t ignore the census — every single resident’s participation is essential to the vitality of our communities.
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1. No citizenship question
Community-wide, the long-term effect of the current political climate and confusion around the citizenship question was coloring people’s perceptions of the census, said Phillip Supino, director of community development for the City of Aspen and a member of the Complete Count Committee.
Federal courts permanently blocked plans by the Trump administration to add a question to the census that would have asked you if you’re an American citizen. The committee is reminding all Roaring Fork Valley residents that there will be no such question on the 2020 Census.
2. Your census answers are confidential
Responses to the census are used to produce statistics, that’s it. The U.S. Census Bureau is legally required to keep your answers confidential.
Census questions will ask for information such as the number of people living in your household, the names and birthdates of each occupant, race, sex, and relationship to one another. The Census will not ask about your religion, political affiliation or income.
In addition, all Census Bureau staff take a lifetime oath to protect your information, and any violation comes with a punishment of up to $250,000 fine and/or up to 5 years in jail.
3. Census data can NOT be used against you for any reason
Federal law guarantees that your personal information and answers cannot be used against you by any government agency. That means your census answers cannot be shared by the Census Bureau with immigration or law enforcement agencies.
“Unequivocally, under no circumstances, can census data be shared between agencies,” Supino said.
4. Undercounting leads to underfunding
Census numbers equate to federal funding for vital community services such as roads, transportation, hospitals, emergency services, subsidized food, health care and more.
For every person who is counted in the census, Colorado receives about $2,300 in federal funding. That’s per person, per year, for the next 10 years.
That means just one person who isn’t counted could result in the loss of $23,000 federal dollars until the next Census count in 2030.
“With just a few minutes of your time, you can help ensure funds for important community services such as education, road improvements, and health and human services,” said Jenn Ooton, assistant city manager for the City of Glenwood Springs. “Additionally, our Roaring Fork and Colorado River Valley communities are better able to plan for the future when we have accurate population counts.”
Alex Sanchez, executive director of Valley Settlement, an organization that works to improve the lives of immigrant families, said the Roaring Fork Valley’s Latino community was grossly undercounted in the 2010 Census. This leads to an inability at the local level to fully support all members of the community with necessary resources.
“Hopefully this year the census count can be a true reflection of this community,” he said.
5. Better political representation
When a community is accurately counted, it can be more effectively represented. Colorado is one of five states in the West that could get an additional Congressional seat after the 2020 Census, but first we need successful Census participation.
“We all have a vested interest in making sure we’re participating,” Sanchez said. “Regardless of immigration status, this is our civic duty.”
6. Participating in the Census is easy
Your invitation to participate in the 2020 Census will be delivered between March 12-20. Once you receive your invitation, you can respond online (http://www.2020Census.gov), by phone (call in to the Census Call Center using the phone number on your invitation postcard), or you can mail in your response form.
7. Census Day (April 1) and other important dates
Every physical mailing address will receive a postcard with instructions for how to participate in the U.S. Census, plus reminder letters, from now until April 27.
The U.S. Census started accepting responses online, by phone and via mail on March 12. April 1 is considered Census Day, which means all questions you answer on the census form should include the people living in your household as of April 1.
From April to June, counts will be done of group facilities such as dorms and nursing homes.
In May, census workers will visit the homes of non-respondents.
And finally, in December, the Census data will be delivered to the President and Congress.
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