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The Census Is Here and Everyone Counts: Here’s What to Do

Census invitations have been sent out and officials want everyone to participate so they’re making the information clear, accurate, accessible, short and safe. “We highly encourage people to fill out the questionnaire.”

(TNS) — By now, folks across the nation have begun to receive their invitations to respond to the 2020 U.S. Census. And doing so is incredibly important for myriad reasons.

Why It Matters

The census provides important data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support communities and their residents. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads and other resources based on census data.

The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

"We want to make sure we count everyone," said Anne Williams, a U.S. Census Bureau partnership specialist out of the New York Regional Census Center. "This data will be with us until 2030, so it's critical to get an accurate count.

Williams said folks will receive an official envelope with the Census 2020 logo and Department of Commerce seal on it; inside will be an invitation letter with a Census ID consisting of numbers and letters.

"There's a page on the Census Bureau website about avoiding scams and fraud," she said, explaining how people can verify the authenticity of the letter. "If they have concerns, they can reference that."

When responding to the census, Williams said it is important for people to understand that any information they provide is safe and will not be shared.

"The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to keep information confidential," she said. "It is designed to protect people's information. And we want people to know that we'll never ask for social security numbers, credit card numbers or bank account numbers."

How To Respond

This year, the U.S. Census Bureau, for the first time, is encouraging people to respond online. Each household is provided with a Census ID, found on the invitation letter, which they enter on the website when responding.

Online response is designed to conserve natural resources, save taxpayer money and help in processing data more efficiently.

"When you start to complete the questionnaire online, you won't be able to save and return," Williams said, explaining that firewalls and cybersecurity measures were put in place to keep' information safe. "But it should only take about 10 to 15 minutes to complete."

Aside from English, the online questionnaire is available in 12 other languages, including Spanish, Portugese, Chinese and Arabic. In addition, instructions for filling out the questionnaire are available in 59 languages; phone support is also available for those who may need assistance.

"Once someone decides to respond, their address is taken off of the list of non-responders," Williams said.

For those who are unable to respond to the census online or by phone, the Bureau will send out a paper questionnaire.

If someone does not respond to the questionnaire, a census worker will be sent to the address to collect answers in person.

"If someone doesn't get an invitation letter, they can still go onto the website and enter their address," Williams said.

Spreading The Word

Several local entities have been working diligently to make sure as many people as possible in Massachusetts are aware of and respond to the census.

MassCounts, a coalition comprising organizations like Massachusetts Voter Table, MIRA Coalition, Chelsea Collaborative, Mass Equity Fund, Common Cause Massachusetts, MassVote, the Chinese Progressive Association, works with community organizations to train and mobilize trusted leaders to share why the 2020 Census is safe, easy and important.

"We've been working with organizations across Massachusetts, from non-profits to small businesses," said Beth Huang, a spokesperson for MassCounts. "And we've been in contact with many, many municipal officials."

Overall, Huang said reassuring people that their responses are confidential is key to a high response rate.

"We want people to ask questions if they have them, and to seek help if they need it," she said. "We highly encourage people to fill out the questionnaire."

For more information and to respond to the 2020 U.S. Census, visit

©2020 Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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