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Clearing up questions about Census 2020

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In less than a month now all of us will be receiving a postcard in the mail from Census 2020 preparing us to fill out our once-a-decade Census forms. It is vital we all do so. To complete the Census will take only a few minutes. (There are only 10 questions.) This year all residents will be able to fill out the Census form on line or with pen or pencil.

Filling out the Census fully and accurately is one of the best ways all of us who live here guarantee the quality of life in our community for the coming decade: Census count is tied to federal dollars coming into our county.

Joshua Bougie and Jeremy Kline from the regional Census 2020 office in Chicago addressed a large group at Lunch with the League recently. They were joined by Samantha Cravens, Health Educator from the Montgomery County Health Department and a member of the Montgomery County Wellness Coalition.

Why do we have a Census at all? The first reason is that it’s the law. Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution says that all peoples who live in all states, protectorates, or territories are to be counted. The Census has been taken in the United States since the l790s.

Our country also uses Census data for determining legislative apportionment. In other words, how many representatives any state has in Congress is based on Census data. Indiana currently has nine representatives and that is not expected to change in 2020.

Census numbers also determine the amount of federal tax dollars that states receive. Of the $675 billion distributed nationwide after the 2010 Census, Indiana received just about $18 billion. These funds are vital: public services like fire and police, education programs, including free and reduced lunch, agricultural programs of all sorts, help for the severely disabled, and dozens more that our community counts on are partially funded with federal dollars.

Samantha Cravens encouraged citizens to consider volunteering, either as an individual or as part of a group, to help the Montgomery Wellness Coalition assure that Montgomery County gets as complete a count as possible. Our county commissioners have appointed the Wellness Coalition to be Montgomery County’s “boots on the ground.” The commissioners are well aware that the county they oversee will be healthier and better able to plan for its future if we know accurately who lives here. Our Wellness Coalition has given us a “robust Complete Count team.” Nonetheless, lots of further help is needed to assure this major task can be completed as well as possible.

Anyone seeking part-time employment between April and August is encouraged to contact Census 2020. Work can be done on weekends or in the evenings. The pay for this work ranges from $16-$22/hour.

The Census 2020 speakers fielded questions from the audience. Kline reminded us that all residents including migrants, children under 5, people in care facilities, and the homeless are to be counted. There is no citizenship question on the Census. Census 2020 does not collect Social Security numbers nor any private data. They share none of their data with anyone, including other government departments or entities. Census data is highly secure and is not released to the public for 72 years. Currently Census 1940 data is about to be released.

Military personnel and college students are counted at their places of residence on April 1, the official Count Day for 2020. Mechanisms are in place to avoid accidental duplicate counting. “Snowbirds,” who maintain two residences, for instance, are to be counted where they are on April 1.

When asked whether there are fines or penalties for people who do not fill out Census forms, both Bougie and Kline assured the crowd that even though a few places historically have statutes about that, to their knowledge, no such regulation has ever been enforced. It’s in everyone’s best interest to help our county achieve Complete Count.

Contact Montgomery County Health Department at 765-364-6440 if you or your groups would like to help with this project. Hiring for the paid jobs (see above) will begin within the next month. Census 2020 will be hiring c. 200 people in the area. The League of Women Voters is a national partner with Census 2020.

The next meeting of Lunch with the League will take place at noon March 2 in Whitlock Hall, 212 S. Green St. The speaker will be Mark Casteel, Montgomery County Administrator. He will speak about what his job, a new position in Montgomery County, entails.

 

The LWV, open to men as well as women, is a nonpartisan, multi-issue political organization which encourages informed and active participation in government. For information about the League, visit the website: www.lwvmontcoin.org or send a message to LWV, PO Box 101, Crawfordsville, IN 47933

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