Preparations for 2020 census begin
LAKE COUNTY – Once every ten years, the federal government attempts to count every single resident of the United States, and if people aren’t counted, the state won’t get the federal funding it deserves.
The 2020 census won’t begin until next spring, but the National Partnership Program is already making efforts to ensure that everyone in Lake County is counted.
The partnership program forms relationships with local governments and organizations to spread the word to locals about the census.
The constitution requires the government to count everyone in the country every 10 years. The federal government uses the numbers gathered in the census to allocate federal funding until the next census.
That funding goes toward public assistance programs like Medicaid and highway construction. Other agencies and organizations use numbers from the census to make decisions about programs, like hospitals and public transportation.
Josh Manning is the media specialist for the Montana partnership program. He said completing the census is a small task but the stakes are high.
“If we don’t get counted, we’re not going to get the things we need,” Manning said. “You take 60 seconds to improve Montana for the next 10 years.”
Manning said his organization is particularly dedicated to counting everyone on the Flathead Reservation. Tribal members work closely with federally funded programs, so it is important that they are counted correctly. The partnership program is hoping to work with leaders in the tribes to encourage everyone to participate.
Children are another important demographic that sometimes isn’t counted in the census. People don’t report their children under age five, even though young people utilize federal services.
Earlier this year, there was controversy over a proposed question about citizenship status on the census. That question will not be included in the census.
Manning said the data the census gathers cannot be viewed by any other federal agency. The only purpose for the data is to determine federal funding. There will not be any personal repercussions for information divulged on the census. Information provided on the census cannot be used by law enforcement or immigration enforcement agencies. The census uses “the gold standard” for data privacy to ensure that no one’s information is accessed by anyone but census officials, Manning said. “It’s like the safest form you will ever fill out,” Manning said.
Residents of Lake County should get notification about the census by mail mid-March in 2020. There are options for filling out the census by mail, online or over the phone. The census officially runs from April 1 through July 2020. The results are tabulated and delivered to the President and Congress.
Those who do not get the chance to fill out a form by mail or in person should notify a leader in their community before the end of July. City, county and tribal government officials will be able to help residents get counted.
Manning said people should be aware that there are some scams that reference the census in order to take advantage of people. The census will never ask for a Social Security number. The census does not cost any money. The census does not request financial information. If a suspicious census form arrives at your home, email firstname.lastname@example.org to report it.
Manning said if Montana residents don’t fill out the census there could be serious impacts on federal funding.
“We’re just trying to make sure everyone in America is getting counted and gets what they deserve when it comes to services they pay for with their tax money,” Manning said.