By Mary Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville
Feb. 12, 2020: The 2020 Census is upon us. The Founding Fathers thought the census so important they mandated it as part of the constitution.
Letters from the Census Bureau will arrive from mid to late March. This first entreaty will arrive in the mail without a paper questionnaire. Instead, households will be directed to a website to complete online.
Paper questionnaires will only be delivered to households that don't receive mail at a physical location, most notably those with PO boxes.
Completed forms are officially/ideally due on April 1, though a reminder postcard will be sent around April 8, followed by a paper questionnaire on April 20.
From May through July, hundreds of thousands of census workers nationwide will comb the streets to collect data from households that failed to respond.
Surprisingly, Westchester County has a reputation for being one of the most difficult communities to count, with a significant loss of federal funding dollars and governmental representation at stake.
The Westchester cohorts chronically under represented include renters, the disabled, senior citizens, and Spanish speaking residents.
As a state, in 2010, New York had a census response rate of 76%, resulting in $73 billion in annual federal education aid as an example. Had the response rate been 95%, $92 billion would have been directed our way primarily for schools with large low income populations, special education programs, and Title III programs which support English language learners.
Most fundamentally, census numbers affect the distribution of both federal and state legislative representation and correspondingly affect programs in education, healthcare, law enforcement, and highway funding nationwide.
As a result of the last census (2010), $675 billion was allocated for programs close to home, including senior lunch programs, highway congestion planning, and relocation, and 911 emergency systems – all requiring census driven demographic maps.
Scientists rely on the data to interpret the distribution of diseases and health hot spots, including cancer zones and obesity data. The census numbers are used to target interventions in at risk communities.
Contrary to the acceleration in technology, it is actually harder to conduct the census due to increasing cultural and linguistic diversity and a greater distrust of government. The recent proliferation of personal data scams has added to the heightened concern about releasing highly personal details.
As an assurance, by law, the Census Bureau cannot share your information with other governmental agencies, including welfare and immigration agencies, police, FBI, Courts, the military, and the Internal Revenue Service. The law also requires census forms to remain private for a 72-year span since most of the people listed would have passed away or were young children when the data was collected. As an example, in 2012, the Census Bureau released data from the 1940 census and posted it online through the National Archives.
To compound the issue, the wording of the census is not as straightforward as one would expect. As an illustration, the very first question asks for how many people are living and staying in your house, apartment, or mobile home on April 1, 2020. Confusion results because a household must only count the number of people physically staying in the home, not family members living elsewhere, including college students, parents cared for at resting homes, those on military duty, or incarcerated. Yet non-immediate family members living under one's roof, including staff, nephews, boyfriends, etc. are to be counted.
By law, the Census Bureau is required to report the new congressional apportionment numbers to the President by December 31, 2020. States, including Texas, Colorado, Florida, and Oregon, are projected to gain seats in the House of Representatives while Illinois, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia are expected to lose Congressional representation.
Long after the December deadlines, the census numbers will truly affect everyday life even beyond what I aforementioned. Businesses will use the numbers to determine where they build stores and locate distribution centers, vaccine amounts to be ordered, highways to be constructed, and even our Social Security programs' future and viability will depend upon census data.
To that end, we at Village Hall are committed to providing you with all the information and resources available to help you to accurately register your information as so much is riding on it for the entire decade going forward.
Photo by A. Warner
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