Take the 2020 Census online now and then help your neighbors

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Left to right – Nellie Billups, Joanna C. McClain, Mary Tyner at the Fairfield Senior Center learning how to participate in the 2020 Census. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Do you ignore your snail mail like me? Personally, I get too much junk mail, and I really don’t have time to read through it all.

I did get one piece of mail this week that I responded to immediately though—an invitation from the U.S. Census Bureau to participate in our nation’s once every ten-year counting of the number of citizens living here.

Preparing for the Census

Last week, before the coronavirus crisis quarantined millions of Alabamians and Americans, I saw a presentation by the United Way of Central Alabama about the importance of the 2020 Census at the Fairfield Senior Center.

United Way of Central Alabama staff addressing the Fairfield Senior Center on March 11, 2020. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Joined by 25-30 seniors, we learned that the Census is not something we should not take lightly. First of all, we are all required to respond to the Census. But more importantly, if we do not count everyone, it could potentially have a devastating impact on our state.

How so? Here are the facts:

  • Each year, $13 billion dollars comes to Alabama through 55 federal programs guided by the census. If we don’t count everyone, our portion of federal funding could be reduced, unnecessarily stretching vital services thin.
  • Census data will be used over the coming decade to decide where to place parks, roads and hospitals. Insufficient data hinders these projects.
  • The census determines funding for local projects that benefit people of all ages, including housing assistance, mass transit, emergency preparedness efforts and economic development. A full and complete accurate count helps us expand transportation options, creates jobs and keeps us safe.

We also need to count everyone in Alabama, because if we don’t, we may lose a seat in the U.S. Congress. That means instead of seven congressional seats, we will have six representatives.

How the 2020 Census Works

Most everyone should have gotten an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census this week.

The invitation provides you a Census ID and encourages you to go online to complete the census by April 1. If you have problems completing the 2020 Census questionnaire online, call 1.844.330.2020 for assistance.

Here’s what my invitation looked like.

By asking everyone to participate online, the government is projected to save $5.2 billion.

If you must take the census the old-fashioned way, expect numerous follow-up letters after April 1.

Be mindful, if the Census Bureau is still unable to get a response from you, they will send a census taker to your door.

Assist Our Seniors

Emphasis on the new online system is the primary reason the United Way gave the presentation to the seniors in Fairfield.

“The Federal government is concerned about counting seniors this year because of the online feature,” explained Trish Hoover with the United Way of Central Alabama. “Change is always uncomfortable. We especially want to remove barriers so seniors will complete the Census. There are more seniors now than there ever have been. They need to be counted.”

Fraud and Scams

United Way of Central Alabama staff addressing the Fairfield Senior Center on March 11, 2020. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Aside from educating seniors on how to participate in the Census, the United Way educated Fairfield seniors about ways fraudsters might use the Census to scam people.

Here are things the 2020 Census will not do or ask:

The Census Bureau will not send unsolicited emails to request your participation in the 2020 Census.

The Census Bureau will never ask for:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your bank account or credit card numbers
  • Money or donations

In addition, the Census Bureau will not contact you on behalf of a political party.

Work on the Census at Home—Reach out to Neighbors and Seniors

Complete your 2020 Census questionnaire online before April 1. It only takes 6-10 minutes.

There is no excuse not to. Especially since many of us are homebound during the COVID-19 outbreak.

So spread the word. And while you are at it, reach out to your grandparents, aunts, uncles or neighbors. Call them. Walk them through the Census on the phone. You can even use your computer. The fewer Census takers we have visiting homes the better.

Alabama is counting on you! Answer the 2020 Census today.

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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