That other story: It’s Census time

2020 Census advertising and outreach campaign launch in Washington, D.C., on January, 14, 2020. (Photo by Jourdan Bennett-Begaye)

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

Social distancing for COVID-19 could be a reason to complete census online or by phone

The 2020 Census is here. Households will start to receive an invitation in the mail to respond to the 2020 Census from now and until March 20. In fact, the 2020 Census can also be completed online and by phone. Some households will receive paper questionnaires to fill out.

Every 10 years the federal government counts each person in the country once. The Constitution requires the count. It determines how federal funds will be distributed to federal programs like head start, Pell Grants and Indian Health Service, it’s about fair representation in Congress so it is used to redraw congressional and state legislative districts, and the data is used by policymakers, business owners, school districts and more.

“The Census is critical to funding for hospitals, schools, roads infrastructure, and programs we all rely on, but New Mexico has been undercounted in the past,” said Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo and D-New Mexico. “It’s going to take all of us working together to make sure New Mexico gets its fair share of resources for our families.”

(Previous story: The Census is Indian Country’s 2020 'selfie')

HOW TO ANSWER?

Online: If WiFi is accessible, people can go to my2020census.gov to complete the online questionnaire. It will be open until July 31, 2020. You don’t need the 12-digit census ID to complete the form. A census ID is printed on the mail invite. Instructions are here or in the video below.

Phone: If by phone, you can call 844-330-2020 between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. Eastern Time. Here are some instructions.

Mail: People will receive reminders in the mail in March and April. Some households will receive a paper questionnaire if they don’t respond online or by phone. Here is what the letters and postcards look like. Here are guidelines if you respond by mail.

Areas with low internet access will get a paper questionnaire. The U.S. Census Bureau will not send the questionnaires to P.O. boxes. In these cases and where there is no address, a census taker will deliver the paper questionnaire to the door. In remote areas, a census taker will get responses in person.

WHAT QUESTIONS ARE ON THE FORM?

The form will ask:

  • How many people live in the household
  • What type of household is it
  • Telephone number if needed for U.S. Census Bureau
  • Names
  • Sex
  • Age
  • If you’re Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin
  • Race

RACE QUESTION

Under the race question is listed “American Indian or Alaska Native — Print name of enrolled or principal tribe(s).” Individuals can fill out multiple tribes in the space provided. People will notice there is limited space on the paper form, but Jessica Imotichy, Chickaswaw and partnership coordinator for the U.S. Census Bureau, said individuals can write their tribes around it or in the margins if there isn’t enough space. And the bureau will still recognize it.

HOUSEHOLD

The bureau says if the person filling out the form is Native, the household will consider this a Native household. If the person is non-Native, the household will be considered a non-Native household.

CONFIDENTIAL

The information is confidential, says the Census Bureau. No one or any agency can access the information for 72 years. 

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Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is the Washington editor for Indian Country Today based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb. Email: jbennett-begaye@indiancountrytoday.com

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