You might be aware that 2020 is a Census year for the United States of America. While October 31 (the last day Census takers will interview homes that haven’t responded) is still quite a few months away, preparations for each decennial census take years and it is important to ensure you count early. It is so important for everyone to be counted but there are some common myths that can make it hard to get everyone counted.
MYTH: My information will be shared or used against me.
Fact: By law, the US Census Bureau cannot share personal data with any other government or law enforcement agency.
MYTH: It’s not a big deal if I’m not counted in the 2020 Census.
Fact: Every person counted matters. Each individual has a tremendous effect on funding for vital programs and services used by residents of Des Moines County, Iowa. For every person not counted in Iowa, $1,268 is lost in funds that would go toward these programs and resources. Programs that would be affected include:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or “food stamps”
- Medicare Part B
- Special Education Grants
- National School Lunch Program
- Head Start/Early Head Start
- Foster Care
- Health Care Programs (Community, Migrant, Homeless, Public Housing)
The official census results are also used to determine how many seats Iowa receives in the U.S. House of Representatives. If Des Moines County is undercounted, Iowa could receive fewer seats in the House of Representatives as a result.
City and county planners also use census data to plan for hospitals, nursing homes, and other clinics. Des Moines County and State of Iowa agencies rely on census data to build new roads and repair our infrastructure. Burlington Community School District and other regional public school districts even use census information to draw school district boundaries.
MYTH: I can’t fill out the census because I’m not a citizen.
Fact: The census counts everyone living in the US.
MYTH: I can’t complete the census because I don’t have internet access.
Fact: The 2020 Census will be available online, by mail, and by phone. Use the library’s Curbside Laptop service or call us to reserve a public access computer at the library to complete your census or simply browse online.
MYTH: I have to answer every single question on the census.
Fact: Incomplete census questionnaires are still considered legal.
MYTH: The Constitution says to only count citizens.
Fact: The U.S. Constitution requires a census every 10 years of all persons living in the country for the purpose of apportioning seats in the U.S. House of Representatives among the states. The Constitution explicitly requires an “actual Enumeration” of “all persons,” imposing on the federal government the duty to count the “whole number of persons in each State.” The Constitution requires a count of all persons living in the United States on Census Day, regardless of citizenship status.
MYTH: There is a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
Fact: There is no question regarding citizenship on the 2020 Census forms at this time. The Supreme Court found this question illegal to add after it was proposed by the current administration. The last time a citizenship question has been on a census survey sent to 100 percent of households was the 1950 census.
MYTH: I have to answer every question on the Census as required by law.
Fact: Incomplete census questionnaires are legal, and in the event that an Executive Order is put in place modifying the current census questions or adding a question on Citizenship, it is perfectly acceptable to leave that question unanswered and turn in the census form to be counted.
MYTH: My information can be taken by the government and used against me.
Fact: By law, your census responses cannot be used against you by any government agency or court in any way—not by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), not by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), not by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and not by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The law requires the Census Bureau to keep your information confidential and use your responses only to produce statistics.
MYTH: There has been no problem getting people to fill out the census in year’s past.
Fact: Some areas of the country, and even Des Moines County, are harder to count than others. In every census, there are certain socioeconomic and demographic factors that include age, housing status, and language that can influence self-response. In the past, the following groups have proven difficult to count:
- People of color
- Low-income or no-income households
- Children under five years of age
- Rural residents
- Limited English proficiency
- Frequent movers or renters
- Large or single-parent households
- Foreign-born residents
- Low educational attainment households
- People who distrust government authorities or could be targets of law enforcement
These are commonly referred to as “Hard to Count” communities. It is incredibly important to make sure these communities understand the importance and safety of the census.
At the time of this post, Iowa’s response rate is 67.5% and Des Moines County’s response rate is 66.2%. You can track the response rates across the nation online.
MYTH: I can only fill out the Census by mail.
Fact: There are multiple options for filling out Census forms in 2020. In 2020 you can respond to the census online (using a computer or smart phone), over the telephone, or by submitting a paper form. Early in 2020 all census addresses will receive a card inviting residents to complete the census. The 2020 Census will provide people with a URL so they can complete the census online, a toll-free telephone number if they want to call in their responses, and an address to request a paper form.
By understanding the true importance of the decennial census, we can make sure everyone has access to the programs and services they need to thrive in Des Moines County.
Call the library at 319-753-1647 to reserve computer time or connect with us at email@example.com to learn more. Visit My Census to learn more about this essential process.