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Civic duty: Residents urged to be counted in US Census

Advertising that the U.S. Census Bureau will use in its outreach campaign for the 2020 Census is displayed at the Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington. This year’s census includes major differences, such as the option to reply by phone or by going online. (AP photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Census information is arriving in most every mailbox.

Notices being mailed this month include a census ID that matches addresses. By April 1, every home should receive an invitation to participate.

For local communities, the count helps determine shared revenues and other sources of funding. The census impacts public safety, health care, education and infrastructure, as well as other essential services.

It’s important that “snowbirds,” who may spend their winters elsewhere, be counted as living here, Iron Mountain City Manager Jordan Stanchina said.

“From the municipality standpoint, we would like to see anyone that resides in Dickinson County but may spend a significant amount of time in another part of the country to be sure that they fill out the census as a resident of Dickinson County,” he said.

Because the census is critical in the distribution of billions in federal dollars, anyone who spends at least 50% of their time in Michigan should be counted as living in Michigan, according to state officials.

This year’s census will have major differences, such as the option to reply by phone or by going online, as well as returning a form by mail.

People filling out the form via the internet are encouraged to use the census ID, but those who answer the questions online before getting their IDs still will be counted. “The best user experience is provided with a census ID,” the Census Bureau said.

About 80% of households will get notices about how to answer the questions online, and about 20% of households automatically will receive a paper ballot if there are large numbers of seniors in their neighborhood or levels of internet connectivity are low.

In the 2010 census, portions of northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula were believed to be undercounted because census workers did not send mailings to many households and instead opted to visit homes. Some tracts in northern Wisconsin likely were undercounted by 8 percent, according to an analysis by City University of New York.

This year, about 95 percent of housing units nationwide will receive their 2020 census invitations in the mail, the Census Bureau said. There may be up to five mailings to encourage a response.

Barring a delay because of the coronavirus, census workers will start going door-to-door in May to approach homes that haven’t responded. Workers will have a photo ID badge with the Department of Commerce watermark and expiration date and a laptop or bag with a Census Bureau logo.

The U.S. Census form will ask questions about the number of people living in each household on April 1, 2020, including name, age, gender, race, date of birth, relationship status, phone number and whether the home is owned or rented.

The Census Bureau collects data for statistical purposes only and cannot share or publish any household-specific census data, including name, address, Social Security number or phone number.

“Under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, census data can only be used for statistical purposes, meaning personal information cannot be used against respondents in court or by a government agency,” Stanchina said.

Information collected through the census is confidential for 72 years. The next release, of the 1950 census data, will be in April 2022.

To help ensure an accurate count, Michigan census director Kerry Ebersole Singh offered these tips:

— You do not have to be a citizen to be counted. According to the U.S. Constitution, the Census counts every person living in the United States as of April 1, 2020, including noncitizens, legal residents and temporary and seasonal workers.

— People should count themselves where they live and sleep most of the time.

— Only one person per household needs to fill out the census but must count everyone in the household. For example, if six people live in the household, the person filling out the form should count all six people.

— If you have children, including newborns, who usually live and sleep at your home, make sure to count them. If they split time evenly between two households, count them where they are on April 1, 2020.

— If you recently moved, count yourself at your new address if you moved in by April 1, 2020.

— If you rent, count yourself where you live.

— If you live in a group living facility — such as college dorms, military barracks, nursing homes, group homes, shelters, psychiatric facilities or correctional facilities — a representative from your living facility will help make sure you get counted.

— Participating in the census is required by law, even if you recently completed another survey from the Census Bureau.

Each decade, the U.S. Census strives to count every person living in the United States. Among other things, the census helps determine how much federal funding each state will receive for essential services that affect local communities. For instance, hospitals and clinics across Michigan received nearly $13 billion in Medicaid funding in 2016, based on the census count, to treat residents.

Census results also can affect congressional representation. Michigan now has 14 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives but stands the chance of losing one if the state’s population declines.

Also, Electoral College numbers are built on the size of each state’s congressional delegation, so the loss of a seat would mean less impact on presidential elections.

Earlier this week, the Census Bureau suspended field operations for two weeks out of concern about the health and safety of its workers and the public. Although most census employees won’t head into the field until May, some workers have been dropping off paper questionnaires at particular locations.

Because of the coronavirus, the bureau has said the deadline for ending the 2020 census at the end of July may be adjusted as needed.

More census information is available at https://www.census.gov/.

Jim Anderson can be reached at 906-774-3500, ext. 226, or janderson@ironmountaindailynews.com.

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