Why is the census important to the North Country? Here’s all you need to know


WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) – Jeff T. Behler of the U.S. Census Bureau spoke with ABC50’s Alex Hazard regarding the importance of completing the 2020 Census for the North Country and the nation.

The census data drives the allocation of federal funding for communities each year. The response form is available online for the first time this year.

Jeff said households can respond to the census in the following ways:

  • Online via forms available in English and 12 other languages
  • Via one of 13 toll free telephone numbers, one for each of the 13 languages that are supported
  • Via mail with paper questionnaires that have been mailed to every household in the nation

Someone will be hired in each community to knock on the door of households who haven’t responded to the census in an effort to gather the data for the individuals living there. The timetable for that is not decided yet, due to the coronavirus epidemic.

The Census Bureau is urging everyone to respond via the internet, phone or mail so someone doesn’t have to go their home to collect the data in person.

The census is only taken once every ten years. Jeff said he can’t think of a better time or reason to complete the census due to the strain being put on hospitals and healthcare systems during the COVID-19 epidemic. He said that one of the easiest things individuals can do to help these systems is complete the census, because critical funding depends on it for the next decade.

Funding decisions for things like the number of hospital beds, emergency clinics, emergency personnel and vaccines in a community will be made for the next ten years based on data collected during the 2020 Census. The results also determine how many seats in Congress each state gets.

Jeff explained that if the number of people living in a community is greater than what is shown in the census data, communities may not get adequate services they need.

The U.S. Census Bureau is bound under Title 13 of the. U.S. Code, meaning all data provided in the cnsus forms is completely confidential, safe and can never be released. The Bureau does not release data at the person or household level. Local, state and federal law enforcement including Homeland Security and ICE, cannot access the data at any time for any reason.  Jeff said even the Patriot Act does not supersede Title 13.

The U.S Census Bureau is using April 1 as the reference point for the Census, meaning regardless of the time an individual completes the questionnaire, they should use data for the people who were living in that household on April 1.

“The public’s health and safety and our employees’ health and safety is of utmost importance,” Jeff said. They wont consider going into the field to report on data in person at households until they know it is safe and experts have told them it is okay.

Data requested for each individual in the Census includes:

  • How many people were living at the residence on April 1
  • If there were additional people staying at the residence on April 1
  • If the home if owned or rented
  • Telephone number
  • Names of individuals living in the household
  • Genders of individuals living in the household
  • Age and date of birth for each individual living in the household
  • If individuals are Hispanic, Latino or of Spanish origin
  • Race of each individual in the household
  • Relationship of other individuals in the household to the first person listed on the form

No social security numbers, bank information or credit card information is included and there are no questions related to political affiliation in the Census.

For more information or to complete the 2020 Census online, click here.


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