COLUMN: Fill out that Census form!

By: 
Staff Writer Kate Wehlann

While word of the COVID-19 illness has taken over the news, it’s important to remember that’s not the only thing going on.

Online census invitations have been mailed out, and simply following the law isn’t the only reason you should fill it out. Getting an accurate count of the demographics of a communtiy can impact federal funds it receives, along with giving emergency workers necessary information in times of need.

“When Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida in 1992, census information aided the rescue effort by providing estimates of the number of people in each block,” read an information sheet from Census.gov, released with the 2000 Census.

The information gathered by the Census Bureau can give local governments the information they need to make good decisions for their communities, and also help you personally.

“Individual records are held confidential for 72 years, but you can request a certificate from past censuses that can be used as proof to establish your age, residence or relationship, information that could help you qualify for a pension, establish citizenship or obtain an inheritance,” the information sheet read. “In 2072 [or 2092, as the case would be now], your great-grandchildren may want to use census information to research family history. Right now, your children may be using census information to do their homework.”

I received a mailing that contained an invitation code I could use to fill out my census questionnaire online and did so in about five minutes. The questions are very simple and easy to understand and the whole process was easier than placing an order with most online retailers. There was no deeply personal information. No financial questions. I don’t even remember any employment questions.

It was actually kind of a letdown that it wasn’t more in-depth, given that this was the first census form I’d ever filled out as my own adult. I was still listed as a dependent of my parents in 2010.

Obviously, not everyone has access to a computer or the internet in Washington County, but many do, and at a time when many of us are home, we might as well take a few minutes to get this out of the way.

Paper questionnaires should be coming out later this spring, and if those aren’t filled out and turned in, and depending on what happens with the viral pandemic, that will be followed by Census takers going door-to-door. The Census may also employ phone calls to allow people to respond that way as well.

So, which would you rather have? An invitation to respond to online/a mailed questionnaire or someone calling you or coming to your door? Get that census questionnaire turned in!

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