Taking part in the United States Census has an impact on almost every aspect of daily life from city to federal levels and, for the first time, completing it can be done online in about 10 minutes.
The 2020 Census officially kicked off this month and residents can either wait for a notice with an authorization code to come through the mail or simply visit 2020census.gov and fill out the survey ahead of schedule.
The questionnaire asks for the names, gender, age (including date of birth) and race/ethnicity of each person living at the residence, whether residents own or rent and for a phone number in case there is a need to follow up. There is no question about citizenship status.
Only one person per household should fill out the Census form. U.S. law prohibits the Census Bureau from sharing any personal information.
On the federal level, Census numbers to guide more than $1.5 trillion annually from 316 federal spending programs for education and health programs, highways, roads and bridges, water and sewage systems, and other projects vital to community health and well-being.
Census results determine congressional representation, the number of Electoral College votes per state and is used to draw boundaries for state and local election districts.
In the last census, Oregon was just shy of gaining one additional seat in Congress, and 2020 is the year that could happen.
Nonprofits and businesses use Census data to help determine where to build health care facilities, child care and senior centers, grocery stores and new factories.
It can even have an impact on local government, said Keizer City Manager Chris Eppley.
“When grant funds are available, a major part of deciding who gets the money is determined by demographics. Having a comprehensive view of who is living in the community can increase our chances of getting that type of funding,” Eppley said.
The demographic information also helps city staff decide where to put their efforts when it comes to applying for grants, which is a time-consuming effort in almost every instance.
Some local projects that have included state and federal grants, and relied partly on Census data, are the Chemawa Road Northeast roundabout, Keizer Rapids Park and Cherriots.
“In addition to that, it’s simply important for a local government to know who they’re trying to serve. As demographics of our citizens change, we have to change with it,” Eppley said.
The demographic information informs how the city engages with the its residents at nearly every level.
“The very simple form is extremely important for us to establish what the city’s representation should be in state and federal governance,” said Mayor Cathy Clark. “We want to make sure that our counts are accurate so we get the portions of the formula funds that should be coming to support projects in our area for roads and other infrastructure.
“The number one reason people should complete the Census is because everyone counts and we want to be sure to count you.”