If you live in the United States taking the 2020 census is required by law, but there are many reasons why you should want to take it. The coronavirus pandemic has also forced a lot of people to move, but it's still important to fill it out.
"We get a 1-in-10 shot here to get it right," said David Bennett at the U.S. Census Bureau. "It will determine the $675 billion of funds that will be allocated across the United States."
The census is a quick questionnaire that lets local, state, and federal lawmakers know how many people are living in parts of the country. Bennett says it helps lawmakers decide where to spend money on important resources like roads, schools, hospitals, and even fire departments.
One issue that Bennett says is affecting parts of San Diego County, such as Coronado and Del Mar, are people who have a home there as a secondary residence.
"When you fill out your census it will ask you if it is your primary or secondary," said Bennett. "If you own different homes, you should have that filled out. If someone is living in that home, they would fill it out as their residence."
You may have already gotten a postcard and letter from the U.S. Census Bureau. Those documents tell you three ways you can take the census, online, by phone, or by mail.
"For the first time, the 2020 census can be conducted online," Bennett said. "There are also question assistance centers where we have pop up areas where you can actually respond there."
If you didn't save the previous letters, Bennett says there is another round of postcards being mailed out to 34 million households. If you moved or were displaced because of the coronavirus Bennett says you should list the address you would have been living at as of April 1st, 2020.
In order to fill out the census online, use the 12-digit census ID number that was sent to you. If you do not have the number, you are still able to fill it out by using your address.
"It is about nine basic questions that ask about your name, your age, where you live, if you own or if you rent," said Bennett. "We're not going to ask for social security numbers, we're not going to ask for bank account number, we're not going to ask for very specific or private information."
Bennett says your responses are protected by law. It is illegal for the Census Bureau to share your information with law enforcement. The census will not ask about your citizenship status.
"Your responses are protected by article 1 section 2 of U.S. Code," Bennett said. "That means your personal identifiable information is protected for 72 years."
Starting in August, census takers will start going door-to-door to follow up on people who have not responded to the census. If you have already responded, you do not need to worry about it.
The U.S. Census Bureau says more people from El Cajon, La Mesa, Oceanside, Poway, and San Marcos have already filled out the census this year, than in 2010. However, in many of those cities, less than 70% of people have responded.
"We want to make sure everyone is counted once, only once, and in the right place," Bennett said. "You may get a knock at your door or somebody leaving some materials at your doorstep to respond."
If you want to avoid having a census taker come to your door, Bennett says you can fill out the census online or by phone at 844-330-2020. The census also has a list of phone numbers you can call if you do not want to respond in English.
Beware of Scams
There will be people who try to pretend they are from the census in order to get personal information from you. Bennett says census takers will not ask for overly personal information. That may include credit cards, social security or medicare numbers, and your citizenship status.
"Anyone who comes for the non-response follow-up will have a census badge and a census tablet or laptop," Bennett said. "You can verify their credentials on 2020census.gov and put in their name or information to verify they work for the census. There is also a 1-800 number there as well."
If you have someone at your door who is impersonating a census taker, Bennett says there is a way to report them. Send an email to PIO@census.gov and tell them someone is trying to scam you.
You can also report false information or rumors about the census. Bennett says you should send an email to Rumors@census.gov.
"Nobody from the census is going to come to your door asking for your bank account information or social security number," Bennett said. "They are going to give you a form for you to fill out."
The census will ask for some contact information such as an email or phone number. Bennett says the census will only contact you if there is something filled out incorrectly on the form if they cannot read the handwriting, or some other detail they do not understand.
"The census is important, it's simple, and it's safe," Bennett said. "The responses you give go to make your communities better with hospitals, roads, and representation."