The 2020 Census Will Become Available to Most Americans This Week—Here’s What To Know

Invitations to respond to the 2020 Census will be delivered between March 12-20, so here’s what you need to know about participating in this very important event.

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The 2020 Census officially kicked off in January in rural Alaska—but this month, the rest of the country will start participating.
The once-in-a-decade operation doesn’t merely count the country’s population—it helps determine how much political power and federal money is allocated to different communities, using statistics that will not change for another ten years.

Invitations to respond to the 2020 Census will be delivered between March 12-20, and recipients can then respond online, by phone, or by mail.

The census data is used to distribute congressional seats and Electoral College votes. The data also determines how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding is allocated for programs like Medicaid, Head Start and block grants for community mental health services — so getting an accurate count is important. The Census Bureau is also adamant about making sure that children in the country are counted as accurately as possible during this process.

“Our goal is to count everyone living in the U.S., including young children. Children under the age of 5, including babies, are among the most likely to be missed in the 2020 Census count,” the bureau told NowThis. “It’s important for every child to be counted in the 2020 Census because the 2020 Census will help determine how much money communities receive for the critical resources that children and families will depend on for the next 10 years—basically, an entire childhood!”

Censuses occur every decade and count residents in the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands).

For certain households, including those in areas where natural disasters have hit, census takers will show up in person to drop off notices and interview residents. April 1 is known as “Census Day” as that’s the reference point for data collection; when you answer the questions, you’ll state where you’re living as of April 1, 2020. It’s also the national day where U.S. residents everywhere are encouraged to respond.

Residents will receive notices about answering the questions until May, when the Census Bureau will send out workers called “enumerators” who will visit households they haven’t heard from. That process will continue until around July. By December 2020, the Census Bureau will deliver apportionment counts to the President and Congress. Read more about the key dates at the official census website.

The Census Bureau provides translated web pages for residents who speak 59 different languages. They also notably will not send unsolicited emails asking for participation or for people’s social security info/bank info—so if you receive census-related emails asking for this info are likely a scam.

The bureau is also organizing a robust outreach campaign to get more people than ever excited about it.

“We engage partners and supporters across the country to remind everyone that participating in the census is safe, easy and important,” the bureau explained. “We have over 300,000 partners and over 10,000 state, local and tribal complete count committees to help us reach millions of households. Ultimately, the success of the census depends on everyone’s participation.”

And though the spread of the novel coronavirus is affecting communities around the world—the increased digitization of the process this year could mean that the outbreak won’t affect the gathering of data as much as it would have in previous cycles. 

More information about the 2020 Census can be found here.