By April 1, your household, and every household in the country, will receive mail from the Census Bureau with information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by mail or by phone. You may feel tempted to throw it away with those drugstore coupons, credit card offers and meal kit delivery service ads…but don’t!
Why is the Census important?
The Census is a count of the population of the United States, and it is required by the United States Constitution that the count be conducted every 10 years. The data collected is used to determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and to redraw electoral districts. It is also used to distribute billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities. These funds affect programs like Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, Section 8 Housing, Head Start and the National School Lunch Program. Around 125 other important programs have funding that’s determined by Census counts.
Think about it this way: If just 1 percent of Texas residents don’t get counted in the Census, it could mean the loss of $300 million a year in federal funding.
Got it! How does all this relate to CASA and foster care?
Children and families in the foster care system rely on many programs whose funding is determined by Census counts. Programs that provide vital services and aid such as substance use treatment, mental health services and foster caregiver support all depend on obtaining an accurate Census count. CASA’s federal funding is also determined by Census counts, so the Census really matters to the CASA community in more ways than one.
This all seems pretty complex. Is it difficult to get an accurate count?
Yes! First, there’s the sheer size of our state. Reaching and following up with all 28-million-plus people of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances is no easy feat, especially considering the fact that 15 percent of Texans live in rural areas, and at least 25,000 are experiencing homelessness at any given point.
What’s more, some people, especially immigrants and those living with immigrants, have concerns about privacy and data sharing. It’s important to note, though, that these worries are unfounded. Firstly, the 2020 Census will not include a question about citizenship or the legal status of your residency and the census is not used to locate people living in the country without documentation. The Census is meant to count everyone living within the country, including non-citizens. Secondly, the Census is required by law to be keep any information you give them confidential—meaning the information you give will never be used against you or to identify you.
Some people are also afraid of fraud. There are ways, however, that you can ensure that a Census worker or document is valid. The Census will never ask for your social security number, your bank account, your credit card number or money. If a Census worker comes to your home, you can ask to see their identification (a valid ID badge with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date). In addition, you can call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative to verify the Census worker’s identity.
What can I do to help?
If you want to assist the Census directly in collecting an accurate count, you can apply to work for the Census. You can also make a big difference simply by raising awareness in your community about the Census and why it’s important.
You can learn more about the many ways you can help on the 2020 Census website.
Now let’s get counted!