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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Columnists > Library Directors Corner

I count and I will be counted!

Feb 4, 2020

By Peggy Johansen - mamakating library director

The 2020 Census is nearly upon us. And it's a big deal. But, why?
A count of all U.S. residents is required every ten years by the U.S.
Constitution to determine representation in Congress and the Electoral College. It is the basis for drawing districts for federal, state, and local offices. And it determines the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding.
The Census Bureau's goal for the 2020 Census is to “count everyone once, only once, and in the right place.” To make this possible, the Census Bureau maintains a list of every housing unit in the United States, so that people can be counted by household.
The upcoming 2020 Census will be the first to urge most households to respond online, but people will also have the option of responding by phone or paper questionnaire. The census form should take 10 minutes or less to complete, depending on the number of people in the household.
The 2020 Census form asks questions about all the people who live and sleep in a household most of the time - including babies and anyone who has no other permanent place to stay and is staying in the household - as of April 1, 2020.
Accurate, detailed data are necessary to enforce civil rights protections and meet the needs of diverse communities, therefore two questions are asked about race and origin. The undercounting of these groups can undermine their political power and reduce access to services.
We only have one shot every 10 years to get the census right. So how does it work?
You will receive an invitation by mail (not email) to respond online with a unique code, or Census I.D., between March 12 and 20. Some households will receive paper questionnaires (e.g. those with PO boxes and those where internet access may be limited). All households also will receive information about how to answer the census by telephone, in case that is preferred.
If your household does not complete the questionnaire after receiving mailed reminders, you may receive a phone call or an in-person visit from a Census Bureau employee.
• To see the 2020 census questions, go to about-questions.html.
• The Census I.D. is not required in order to respond online or by telephone. If you do not have your Census I.D. handy, you can use your street address instead.
• A confirmation page will be displayed after submission; there will not be an email or text message confirmation.
• The Census Bureau uses a different method to count people in group living situations, such as college student housing, prisons, military barracks, and nursing homes. The facility administrator will work with Census Bureau employees to collect the information for the people residing there; those individuals will not respond directly to the Census Bureau.
• People who are staying in the home of a friend or family member as of April 1 should be counted on the questionnaire for that household if the person does not have a usual home elsewhere.
• The online questionnaire will be available in 13 languages: Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), English, French, Haitian Creole, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. Additional languages are available by telephone.
• Responses to the 2020 Census are safe, secure and protected by federal law. All data submitted online are encrypted. Answers can only be used to produce anonymous statistics - they cannot be used against any person or household in any way.
The law prohibits the Census Bureau from sharing personal census responses with any other government agency (at any level), court of law, or private entity or person (such as a landlord), for any purpose, including law or immigration enforcement and housing code enforcement.
Any current or former Census Bureau employee who releases or shares personally identifiable data can go to prison for up to five years, pay a fine up to $250,000, or both.
• The Census Bureau will not email or text people and it will not ask for a bank or credit card number, Social Security Number, or payment or donation.
Remember that your public library can connect you to the internet and trained staff can help you access the online census form. Ask for a public computer with accommodations for privacy. Library staff can also answer your questions and help you get accurate information about the census.
Everyone counts. Look for your census invitation in the mail so you can say “I count and I've been counted!”
Resource: Libraries' Guide to the 2020 Census, January 2020 Update, published by the American Library Association.

Peggy Johansen is the director of the Mamakating Library, 128 Sullivan Street in Wurtsboro. She can be reached at

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