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Officials encourage residents to fill out 2020 census

Count can be completed online, by phone or by mail

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published March 27, 2020

 Participating in the census is required by law. There is no citizenship question on the 2020 census, and the U.S. Census Bureau is bound by federal law to protect personal information and keep answers confidential and anonymous.

Participating in the census is required by law. There is no citizenship question on the 2020 census, and the U.S. Census Bureau is bound by federal law to protect personal information and keep answers confidential and anonymous.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

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ROYAL OAK/CLAWSON — As mandated by the Constitution, the United States has counted its population every 10 years since 1790. This will be the 24th count, but the first time residents can submit online.

The 2020 census data will determine the number of seats each state has in the House of Representatives, adjust or redraw electoral districts, and affect the distribution of hundreds of billions of federal dollars for the next 10 years.

The results indicate where communities need new schools; new clinics; new roads; and more services for families, older adults and children. More than 100 programs receive federal funds, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Participating in the census is required by law. There is no citizenship question on the 2020 census, and the U.S. Census Bureau is bound by federal law to protect personal information and keep answers confidential and anonymous.

The simple questionnaire generally takes 10 minutes or less to complete. It asks how many people are living or staying in a home as of census day, which is April 1, 2020; each person’s sex, age, race and ethnicity; the relationship of each person in the home; and whether the home is owned or rented.

Theresa Tejada is part of a group of Royal Oak residents known as the Royal Oak 2020 Census Complete Count Committee. The volunteers have worked for the past year to help spread the word about the importance of a complete and accurate count.

Tejada, who works for a nonprofit organization, said she regularly uses census data, so she knows firsthand the importance of the census when it comes to representation and funding.

While each state has two senators, the number of congressional representatives is based on population. The more representatives per state, the smaller the districts, so representatives can ideally better advocate for a more localized constituency, Tejada said.

She said the committee strategized different ways to remind people to fill out the census, including visiting schools and senior living facilities, distributing flyers and posters, publishing notices, and establishing a presence at local events.

“Royal Oak has a pretty good response rate compared to other regions. It was 86% in 2000 and 82% in 2010,” Tejada said. “If every household hasn’t gotten (an official census notice) in the mail yet, they will be receiving it shortly. It’s a little postcard that describes how to fill out the census online, by phone or by mail.”

Citizens can fill out the mailed form in three languages, via phone in 12 languages and online in 59 languages.

Tejada encouraged residents to respond before census workers make home visits, which drains federal funds needed elsewhere. Invitations began arriving in mailboxes March 12, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In a March 18 press release, U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced that more than 11 million households had responded, but beginning March 18, 2020, census field operations would be suspended for two weeks until April 1 due to COVID-19.

“The Census Bureau is taking this step to help protect the health and safety of the American public, Census Bureau employees, and everyone going through the hiring process for temporary census taker positions,” Dillingham said. “During this pause in field operations, the Census Bureau will continue to evaluate all 2020 census operations.”

Clawson Mayor Reese Scripture said census data is especially important for Clawson, since it helps businesses decide where to locate, and new business contributes to the city’s downtown and community vibrancy. 

“Given our unique moment in time, it seems appropriate to mention that the census is used to help health providers predict the spread of disease through communities,” she said in an email. “It also helps rescuers determine how many people will need their help in a disaster and the ages of those people.”

She added that, while individual records are confidential for 72 years, census records can be used to furnish documents lost in, for example, a flood. She has also personally used the census to look up family ancestry.

While the majority of the population will receive the simple questionnaire, a small sample will receive a long-form questionnaire that asks more in-depth questions, Scripture said.

“Consider yourself special for getting it and take the time to respond,” she said.

During a March 3 census event at the Macomb Intermediate School District building in Clinton Township, Michigan 2020 Statewide Census Director Kerry Ebersole Singh said that approximately 200,000 Michiganders — including homeless individuals, those who live with a friend or family member for longer than a temporary duration, and young children of divorced parents — were likely uncounted during the last census, many in southeast Michigan.

The loss equated to approximately $437 million per year for initiatives such as road infrastructure, health programs, education and public safety, Singh said, and in 2010, the state of Michigan lost a congressional seat.

“These are federal tax dollars we are already paying,” she said. “This is our money, and we shouldn’t just be a donor state.”

As of midnight March 26, Clawson had a 40.7% response rate and Royal Oak’s was 39.5%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Michigan had a 32.8% response rate, and the national response rate was 28.1%. 

The population in the U.S. on April, 1, 2010, was 308,745,538, a 9.7% increase from 2000, according to census data.

For more information, visit www.2020census.gov or call (844) 330-2020.

Staff Writer Nick Mordowanec contributed to this report.

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