Steve Swingle was a busy man last week. On Monday, the partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau visited the Hardy County Board of Education and on Tuesday, he made a presentation to the Hardy County Commission. The message was the same – it’s important to be counted.
The U.S. Constitution requires every person in the United States be counted every 10 years. April 1, 2020 has been designated a Census Day. That’s when the bureau will make its greatest effort to get the word out about the importance of being counted.
“This year, there are three ways households can be counted,” Swingle said. “The first is the Internet. Heads of households can go to www.2020census.gov. There are nine questions, which should take about 10 minutes to answer.”
There is the paper form, which will be mailed upon request. Heads of households can also respond via telephone.
Between March 12 and March 20, invitations to participate in the Census will be delivered in the mail. Once that invitation is received, decide which method of response is best and complete the process.
“It’s important to be counted for a number of reasons,” Swingle said. “The census determines how federal dollars are allocated. For every person, $2,755 per year comes from the federal government. That’s how much your state and local government can lose, if not everyone is counted. If you figure that amount for 10 years – until the next census – that really adds up.”
There are 135 programs in West Virginia that depend on funding from the federal government. They include roads, bridges, schools and housing. “We want to get our fair share,” Swingle said.
Another reason is representation in Congress.
“We have three representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Swingle said. “They are determined by the number of people in the state. If people are not counted, we could loose representation.”
Swingle said businesses make decisions based on census data. While the specific information is confidential – and there are significant penalties for revealing census information – businesses use the aggregate data to make decisions about locating, relocating and expansion.
In order to facilitate those areas without Internet access, the Census Bureau is enlisting the help of public libraries and is hiring Mobile Questionnaire Assistants.
“These are people with laptops, who will go to public places and events to count people,” Swingle said.
Questions arose at the Board of Education meeting and the County Commission meeting about the safety and security of the Internet.
“First of all, the information is encrypted,” Swingle said. “Second, we will have people doing spot checks. If something seems out of whack, they will flag it and it will be checked.”
Swingle said if people are not comfortable with participating on the Internet, “you can still get a paper form or use the telephone.”
If a household does not respond by any of the above mentioned means, by June, an in-person Census Taker will be knocking on your door.
Swingle was adamant – “There are no citizenship questions,” he said.
The complete census is expected to be completed by August. On Dec. 31, the aggregate data will be presented to the President of the United States. Several weeks later, it will be presented to Congress. Data will be released to the public on March 31, 2021.
Swingle has enlisted the help of local banks, the Town of Moorefield and other institutions to help spread the word. “The governor has allocated $1 million to support the Complete Count Committees,” he said.
Swingle also said the U.S. Census Department is hiring full time, temporary employees.
“We’re not just hiring people to go knocking on doors,” he said. “We need managers, office staff, as well as census takers. Go to 2020census.gov to apply.”