Philadelphia Regional Census Center Partnership Specialist Samuel Knight discussed myths and proceedings for the 2020 Census at a meeting Wednesday.
Data gathered during the 2020 census, Knight said, will affect how the government decides to allocate more than $675 billion in federal funds each year for the next decade. According to Knight, if any community members are missed during the census count, the data won’t accurately represent the area, which could cause Ohio and Highland County governments and organizations to be denied for funding.
“If we miss people in the census, it skews our per capita income up. That same amount of income is getting divided among less people,” Knight said. “I was just speaking with the superintendent of Western Local Schools down in Latham. They’re the eighth or 10th most impoverished school district in Ohio, and he indicated that they’ve tried to apply for certain programs and grants, and they say, ‘Nope, your income doesn’t meet the correct standards.’ This has been indicated in a lot of villages.”
Knight said that census data affects how our state is represented.
“Our 435 House representatives get divided up based on the census counts. If we miss people in any area in Ohio, we can become underrepresented as a state for the next 10 years,” Knight said.
Census data also plays a role in redistricting state legislative districts; forecasting future transportation needs; determining areas eligibility for housing assistance and rehabilitation loans; assisting federal, tribal, state and local governments in implementing programs, services and emergency response; and designing facilities for people with disabilities, the elderly, and children, Knight said.
In Highland County, Virginia Purdy and Sue Smith are spearheading efforts to conduct the decennial head count. Hillsboro City Council member Patti Day is heading up census efforts for the city of Hillsboro, serving as chair for the census in addition to her other duties as chair of the zoning and annexation committee.
Purdy said participation in the census is vitally important to the county, adding that “with the stroke of a pen,” Greenfield went from city to village status as a result of the 2010 census.
“This is about the funding for our roads, our medical programs and so much more,” she said. “It affects our lives here, and it even affects how many people we get to represent us in government.”
The Census Bureau projected that the population of the United States would be 330,222,422 on New Year’s Day this year. Figures from the census bureau revealed that the nation began the new census decade with an increase of 1,991,085 people, or 0.61 percent, from New Year’s Day 2019.
Since the last Census Day, the bureau said that the population has grown by 21,476,884 people — nearly a 7-percent increase.
According to Knight, there will be three ways to participate in the census count: online, by phone or by mail.
Knight said 95 percent of households in the U.S. will receive their census forms in the mail. However, the other 5 percent, including those who have P.O. boxes and those who live on rural routes, will have their census hand-delivered.
Knight reminded community members who attended the meeting that personal information gathered for the census is confidential.
“Title 13 in the U.S. Code protects respondents’ personally identifiable information — that’s all the information we collect in the census,” Knight said. “We ask for name, address, number of people living in the household, race and ethnicity, and sex or gender. Those are the only questions we ask. If there’s more than one person living in the household, we also need that same information for those other people living in the household. We want people to know that their personal information is protected under law. It’s not shared with other government agencies or private entities.”
Agencies and private entities that will not receive information collected during the census include benefits agencies and landlords.
All census bureau employees and county government and planning officials are sworn to protect personally identifiable information. If they disclose it, they can be fined up to $250,000 or imprisoned for up to five years, Knight said.
Census data is protected for 72 years, meaning data from the 2020 census won’t be released until 2092, Knight said.
National Census Day is April 1, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warned people in a news release to be on the alert to scammers posing as census workers.
“This year, census takers will be going door-to-door to retrieve information, and the BBB is anticipating that scammers may be out in full force in an attempt to take advantage of those responding to the census,” the agency said.
Those who would like to complete their census questionnaire via phone must initiate the phone call. Census workers will not call residents.
All census workers will carry a government-issued laptop or cellphone, as well as a bag with the Census Bureau logo on it.
If a census taker comes to your door, the BBB said to ask to see their ID badge, since they are required to carry and present a field badge that includes a photograph of themselves, a Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date.
Knight said they’re still hiring census workers for Highland County. According to Knight, they already have around 120 Highland County applicants, but they need 300 residents to help with census efforts.
The current pay rate for Highland County census workers is $14 per hour plus mileage. These positions are part-time, flexible and temporary.
According to Michael Mays, who works in the recruiting department of the U.S. Census Bureau’s South Point office, “Ohio does participate in the SNAP waivers right now. The federal and state governments have opted in together to not count any income that anyone makes against them that they earn with the census. If someone makes $50,000 in six months, normally they have to report that income and then one-third of their earnings is taken from them to compensate for their housing, and it could jeopardize their long-term housing. That’s not the case here.”
Mays added that residents who receive these benefits and are interested in helping with the census should confirm with their counselors.
“It is everyone’s responsibility, though, to make sure they qualify for their exemptions and they research their own situations,” Mays said. “I don’t work for those agencies; Sam doesn’t work for them. We can’t guarantee that just because we have the waivers that it will be on their paperwork with the landlord or SNAP counselor they deal with. As of right now, there are some Medicaid provisions. Go to your representative and make sure you get the information. The state directors of any of the agencies have those directives that you can request and they will forward you a copy.”
For more information and to apply to become a census worker, visit 2020census.gov/jobs or call 1-855-JOB-2020 (562-2020). Census workers must be U.S. citizens who are 18 or older and have a valid Social Security Number, email and driver’s license, as well as access to reliable transportation, a computer and internet. Males born after Dec. 31, 1959 should also be registered with the Selective Service System or have a qualifying exemption.
The next census meeting will be held at the Hi-Tech Center, 1575 N. High in Hillsboro, on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 10 a.m. The meeting will cover specific messaging including hard questions census workers and community members may encounter while trying to educate the public on the importance of the census.
Expected schedule for the 2020 census
Between March 12 and March 20, Highland County residents will receive an invitation to respond online. The invitation will include a unique URL and code that can be used.
Between March 16 and March 24, residents will receive a reminder letter.
Between March 26 and April 3, residents will receive a reminder postcard.
Between April 8 and April 16, residents will receive a reminder letter and paper census questionnaire, which they can fill out and mail in.
Between April 20 and April 27, those who haven’t completed the questionnaire will receive a final reminder postcard before a census worker follows up in person.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.