Why is the Census important?
It is the law. The U.S. Constitution (Article 1, Section 2) mandates that every resident within the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Island Areas of the United States are counted.
The U.S. Census Bureau conducts a count of each and every resident across the nation every 10 years and has been doing so since 1790. The census count is used to determine the distribution of federal funding, federal representation, and is used to devise a community outlook for potential new businesses, workers, and residents.
Census data is used to distribute more than $675 billion across tribal, state, and local governments. This federal funding is money that goes towards our public schools, health care, our emergency services, and several other vital components of our community. Programs that could be impacted include school lunches, public health programs for women and children, public housing, transportation, infrastructure, SNAP, WIC, Head Start, Medicare, Medicaid, and more.
The census also determines the representation that Michigan has on the federal level. It determines Michigan’s apportion of seats for the U.S. House of Representatives, electoral college votes, and the redistricting of state legislative and school assignment areas.
Berrien County is at Risk
Berrien County is at risk of losing $440 million in federal funding over the next ten years due to a potential undercount of approximately 30,000 “hard-to-count” residents.
Each year, Michigan receives roughly $29 Billion in public funding. If in 2020 there is an undercount in Michigan, we may not get our full share of these resources.
“Hard-to-count" individuals are often low-income groups, immigrants, people of color, young children, homeless individuals, students, and individuals without internet access.
All of these individuals are vital to the support of Berrien County as each resident is attached to approximately $1,500 in federal funds.
Everyone living at an address matters. Every person, every child, and every adult should be counted on the census. Foster children, immigrants, green card holders, migrants, and anyone boarding at your place of residence whether they pay rent of are temporarily sleeping on your sofa, these individuals must be counted.
How does the Census impact my business?
The success of the 2020 U.S. Census will have important implications for businesses in Michigan. The decennial population count contributes to critical data (publicly accessible through the Census Business Builder) that business owners use to identify where to open a new store and what products and services to offer. It helps allocate funding for various federal business loan programs and provides a foundation for many of the resources offered through the Small Business Administration. The census is also used to effectively allocate public funding for investments that grow the economy, including schools, roads, and workforce development, among many others.
Business owners and operators can help achieve an accurate 2020 Census by encouraging their employees and customers to complete their census questionnaires early. Businesses can start promoting the census in March 2020 (when households receive their census materials by mail) using the resources below and can continue to encourage people’s participation through May. Census workers, however, will begin visiting homes in May for those who do not respond on their own.
What can I expect from the 2020 census?
Residents will receive letters in March directing them to go online for the census, enter a code number for the household, and answer a brief nine question survey, that will include questions such as your name, age, birthday, etc. It does not ask for sensitive information like social security numbers, immigration status or bank account information.
It is expected to take approximately 10 minutes to complete, and can be completed online, by mail, or by phone.
The official count day is April 1, 2020. It is asked that the survey be completed by April 30 to help streamline communication. After April 30, census staff may visit your household to ensure you are counted.
The 2020 census is completely confidential. Federal law prohibits anyone at the Census Bureau from sharing personal census information, with violations resulting in stiff penalties and jail time. Individual-level census information cannot and will not be shared with any agency - including the IRS, sheriff, courts, ICE, DHHS, your landlord, etc. The penalty for unlawful release of information is punishable by a $250,000 fine and/or five years in prison.
How can I help?
Talk about the census with your friends, neighbors, and your colleagues. Mark your calendar and be sure to look for your own census letter to arrive in March.
Check out this Business of the Census toolkit for more information and ways to help promote the census within your business! Visit www.census.gov for more information.