It’s More Important Than Ever That Our Voices Be Heard — And What Better Way To Do That Than By Filling Out This Year’s Census From Your Own Home?
As we head deeper into the uncharted territory that is the coronavirus pandemic and everything that comes with it, it’s easier now than ever to forget that we indeed get a say in many of the decisions that our federal and state governments make.
Granted, the U.S. Census may seem like an indirect answer to the rather direct issues of the day, but its importance lies in the long game, and specifically in how it can affect our hyper-local communities.
While its top-line goal is to determine the residencies of all American citizens as of today — April 1, 2020 — the general questionnaire doesn’t just serve as a population counter; issued every 10 years, it also asks simple demographic-based questions in order to better define the needs any given area. That, in many ways, then determines how each area is governed.
Yes, folks, there are plenty of reasons why you should fill out the census, which you can do right here.
In fact, here’s five of reasons.
- It determines how national funding will be spent for years to come. While budgets are decided on an annual basis and money/resources may get allocated to other places as issues arise, the U.S. Census gives the federal and state governments a general idea on which areas of focus it should put money towards. Examples of this include education budgets, infrastructure funding and healthcare programs such as Medicaid. The government uses the population figures it gets from the census to decide which geographical areas need more funding, and which areas of spending could use a general bump in or less funding. Want Dallas to receive more funding from the government? Don’t let yourself or any of your friends let the census pass them by.
- Now that the census is available to fill out online, it’s easier than ever. This is a no-brainer. For the first time ever, Americans can now fill out the census online, making the process more accessible and faster for those of us who don’t want to hand-write answers, to make phone calls that can take a significantly amount of time or to deal with the door-to-door census workers. While these options are still available to those who may not have access to the internet, the online option takes fewer than 10 minutes to complete, and it actually conserves resources. So, again, do it.
- It helps determine how many representatives a state is given in the U.S. House of Representatives. Texas currently has 150 representatives in the House — a figure determined by the state’s population size. Simply put, the higher a state’s population is, the more representatives it has representing them. If the census doesn’t count everyone in a state, that state will have a less accurate count of people — and potentially fewer representatives than it deserves. This happens sometimes! Between the 2000 and 2010 US Census surveys, eight states that gained representatives and 10 states lost representatives.
- Your answers are 100 percent confidential, and can’t be legally used against you. It’s easy to look at this whole system and and think, “Can’t this personal information be leaked and somehow used against me?” Except, no, that’s not the case. The Census Bureau and federal government actually have protections in place to keep the information shared in the census private. The Bureau can’t release your information for any reason whatsoever. In fact, releasing that information is considered a federal crime.
- The census can help in times of crisis. Well, this is a relevant one. The statistics of how many people live in a certain area can be instrumental in determining how a virus is spread, or which areas need the most help allocated to them. This could mean more hospital beds being installed in a specific area, or having more first-responders in place for more densely populated areas, and so much more. An accurate count is vital to all of these things, and during this time in which we are all repeating the mantra of “We’re all in this together!” it should be clear as day why it’s important that we’re all counted.
It’s important to keep in mind that, while today is National Census Day and while it’s also the date that determines which address you will put in your forms, today is not the deadline for filling the census out.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau has extended the deadline of the 2020 US Census to August 14, hoping to give more households time to respond in the case that they are affected directly by the virus.
But as for you? The one reading this at home right now? You might as well get on it and just finish filling it out ASAP right here.
As already noted, it won’t even take you 10 minutes — and it could do our region a world of good.
Cover photo by Breanna Loose.