By Ralph E. Moore Jr.
Special to the AFRO
Every 10 years every person in the United States and its territories must be counted; that’s the law. The counting has been done since the year 1790 or 24 times up to now. So what’s the big deal about the Census and why is it important?
The counting means more than many of us realize. The numbers are important when the government decides on a new supermarket in the neighborhood or whether a school stays open or is closed. The Census count means dollars for daycare centers and the WIC (Women, Infants and Children Supplemental Nutrition) Program for moms and babies; it will help decide if and where hospitals and senior centers will be built. This is the nuts and bolts of how things work: numbers and words—numbers from the Census and words on budgets, plans and laws.
State Senator Mary Washington (Democrat from the 43rd Legislative District of Maryland) says, “Information citizens give to Census takers or what is put on forms online or mailed in is totally confidential.” Washington, serving on the Governor’s Maryland Census Complete Count Committee for 2020, was appointed by the MD. Senate President. She served as an enumerator in 2000. Employees of the Census Bureau must take an oath of confidentiality so they cannot disclose any information they handle to non-Bureau employees. They are subject to a fine of up to $250,000 and/or prison time.
The 2020 Census is a simple numbers game; the more people who are counted, the more funds Baltimore City can get for its citizens from the federal government. So, why not take a few minutes to do the quick, simple Census form? You can go to the link: https://2020census.gov or use the Census form you may have gotten in the mail (it is not too late).
Census takers will not be going door to door any time soon, as they have done in the past. Because of the Coronavirus, census information can be taken online or over the phone if mailings are not returned. Sen. Washington says with certainty, “No questions about citizenship status will be asked. And the Census will not ask for your social security number, for money, anything for politics or your bank account or credit card information. Those are scams, so do not respond to them.”
So far, since March 12, when the first Census mailing went out, 57.3 percent of the nation responded on its own, while 61 percent of Maryland residents have supplied their information and 46.8 percent of Baltimore City residents self-responded either by mail or online.
The Census Complete Count Committee has set goals for how many residents it hopes to count: 68 percent for Baltimore City, 70 percent for the state and 80 percent for the country. The next phase of the 2020 Census will involve various strategies: stickers on boxes going out from food distribution centers reminding folks to mail in or do the online census form, phone banks city residents and grants to local community based organizations to remind community residents to turn in completed census forms. Every effort will be made to count as many persons as possible by the end of 2020. By year’s end the Census information must be reported to the President and the Congress after any corrections are made if needed.
Sen. Washington reminds us that Baltimore City has always been undercounted. She states, “For every person not counted, $1800 of federal funds are left on the table. It’s about us being counted. Now is the time. The Census lasts for ten years and there are no do-overs. Please be counted so our city can get what it needs.”