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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Now’s a good time to be counted in the 2020 Census

Invitations to participate in the 2020 Census were mailed this month with reminder letters delivered this week. It’s vitally important that we all respond as soon as possible.

The official deadline is April 1.

The United States Census Bureau says in its mailing that it needs your help to count everyone in the U.S. by providing information about every person, including babies, who lives or stays at your address.

The Constitution requires the decennial count, and federal law requires people to respond. Yet, while Census workers and local officials and groups stress the importance of everyone’s participation, and even though the information is confidential, millions won’t do it.

The Census is a national counting of people living in this country done every 10 years. It costs millions of dollars in taxpayer money for the government to promote the survey, gather the information and hire thousands of workers to knock on doors to try to complete the count.

“Every person in America deserves to be counted,” Census Director Steven Dillingham said.

We’ve all seen ads urging us to participate, and millions of us will dutifully fill out forms, phone into call centers or answer the questions online. This is the first time the Census can be completed either online, by phone or by mail.

Most households have received invitations to respond online. However, those living in areas less likely to respond online are being sent paper questionnaires. The Census count officially began in January in the remote rural village of Toksook Bay in Alaska.

Among the reasons for conducting the 2020 Census is that it will help direct billions of dollars in federal funds to help local communities meet transportation and emergency readiness needs, including for such situations as the coronavirus.

Those funds will also be directed toward schools, roads and other public services. And the accounting of the distribution of our population will help to determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and political representation at all levels of government.

“Local communities depend on information from the Census Bureau,” one of the mailings explains, “to fund programs that promote the well-being of families and children as well as equal employment opportunities for you and your neighbors.”

The survey will include such questions as how many people live in a household as of April 1 as well as the race, sex and age of each one. However, the Census will not ask about the citizenship of residents. But it will, for the first time, include an option to check same-sex marriage.

While April 1 is the deadline and considered “Census Day,” more reminder letters and forms will start being received April 8 by those who haven’t responded, and Census workers will begin going into the field April 9 to contact those people.

Between April 20 and 27, postcards will be delivered to households as final reminders that they have not yet responded. And the actual last day to respond for most people will be July 31.

But we urge you to respond now. We’ve all been required to stay home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, except for essential reasons, and that should give us more time to complete our Census forms. The Census Bureau says it will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation and follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities.

In the meantime, follow the instructions on your mailings and respond online at 2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020, where you can speak in English as well as 13 other languages.

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