In March, the United States mailed out invitations to complete the 2020 Census to homes all across the country. For the first time this year, respondents are able to complete the census online in addition to phone or mail. The census is done every 10 years and it designed to count every person in the country. The count is required under the Constitution and people are required under federal law to respond. All of the information in the census is confidential. There has been an underwhelming response by people of color when it comes to completing the census. We can change that. Here are some FAQs about the 2020 U.S. Census. 


Why is the Census Important?

There is a lot at stake for people of color. The count is used to distribute more than $800 billion a year in federal funds designated specifically to schools, roads, bridges, hospitals/clinics and lunch programs. The count also helps determine the number of House seats a state has in Congress. According to Jeanine Abrams McLean, vice president of Fair and Count, in the last census over 2.7million African Americans were missed. The money didn’t disappear she said, “It was just shifted over to the communities that took the time to be counted.”


What does the Census Ask?

There are only nine questions on the census. The questions include how many people are living in your house as of April 1, 2020. It asks about race, sex, and age of each member in the household and if they are related. There are questions on whether you own or rent your house, and your phone number. There are no questions about citizenship, political affiliation, social security numbers, or banking information. 


Do you HAVE to complete the Census?

Legally, yes. Federal law mandates that every person fill out the census. Refusal to answer all or part of the census carries a $100 fine. The penalty increases to $500 for false answers although there hasn’t been a prosecution in nearly 50 years. Census forms were mailed to every U.S. household. If no response is returned, or answers are incomplete, the Census Bureau will follow up to get information. The final population tally is used to divvy up funds to states, and communities for many programs.

Reasons to complete the Census

Census numbers are used by our government for many things including helping our communities work out public improvement strategies. If there is a lot of traffic in your neighborhood, elderly people living alone, or overcrowded schools, the census numbers are what’s used to help. Many 911 emergency systems are based on maps from previous census numbers. Census information helps health providers predict the spread of disease through communities. Census numbers are also used to tell rescuers how many people will need help in the event of flood, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Have you ever wanted to learn your family’s history or used online data to find long lost family members? Census information is what’s used to get that information. 

How to respond to the Census

The 2020 Census is happening right now. There are three ways to complete the census, online, by phone, or by mail. If you are responding to the census by mail, you must complete the questionnaire in one sitting. The ability to save your progress is not available. You can see the questions asked in the census here


As a community it is important that we make sure we are counted so that government funds can be allocated in our communities. If you haven’t done so by mail, or by phone, please fill out the 2020 Census online here. Let’s make sure that our voices are being counted. Completing the census allows us to get critical funding in our communities for the next decade. 

Hope this helps

Until next time

Mommi Bella