The 2020 Census will open a new chapter in the decennial process of counting every person in the United States and its territories. For the first time, people will be able to respond by mail, telephone, or online. The “Head of Household” category has been eliminated and the individual completing the survey will identify as Person 1. For historians and researchers looking at this data, when it becomes public in 72 years, there is the possibility that this could be the most accurate Census ever.
The Census Bureau expects most people to respond online. An invitation to respond will be mailed to most households between March 12-20, followed by two reminders. The third reminder letter will include a paper questionnaire. If the household has not responded by April 19, a final reminder postcard will be sent, and followed up by and in person visit by a census enumerator (according to the original plans, currently the Bureau is reviewing it’s procedures due to COVID-19).
Security and confidentiality of 2020 Census responses is of utmost concern to all people. Our responses are safe, secure, and protected by federal law. The law requires the Bureau to keep our information confidential and use your responses only to produce statistics. Every Census Bureau employee takes an oath to protect your personal information for life.
Completing the Census is not only required by law, it is part of our civic duty. It is a way for each of us to participate in our democracy. An accurate count in Virginia will ensure that seats for the United States House of Representative are apportioned correctly, and help ensure that our Virginia House and Senate districts are drawn to match population. Census data will influence the drawing of school districts, voting precincts, and even the location of first responders in communities.
For Virginia, the immediate results of the census will be redistricting, followed very shortly by money. The Census Bureau estimates that more than $675 billion in federal funds will be distributed to states, counties, and communities based on census data.
The largest shares of census-based monies are distributed through formula and project grants. See Uses of Census Bureau Data in Federal Funds Distribution (2017)
According to USASpending.gov, Virginia received $16.1 billion in grants in 2019. Over ten years, that is $161 billion. As they say, pretty soon you are talking about real money.
So get counted. Everyone. We all matter.
-Mary S. Clark
Director, Acquisitions and Access Management and Government Information Enthusiast