It’s time for the 2020 Census, and the State of Oregon began efforts in mid-March to reach out to its residents to make sure they are counted.
By law, every single person living in the United States must be counted every 10 years. Where a person is living and sleeping most of their time determines where they take residence.
You can respond by mail, phone, or, for the first time ever, online.
Gov. Brown has established Oregon Counts 2020, an Oregon-based website for encouraging all Oregonians to be counted.
Why It’s Important
The data collected during this head count is used to determine how parts of the country are represented in Congress and where billions of dollars should go. A study by the George Washington Institute of Public Policy estimates that in 2016 alone, Oregon received more than $13.4 billion in federal assistance based on data collected during the 2010 Census.
The Census can also determine or influence state legislative districts, school districts, and school board positions, as well as city and county boundaries. Experts at the Brennan Center for Justice predict that Oregon is on track to gain a 6th Congressional seat if it achieves a complete 2020 Census count, amplifying Oregon’s voice in Washington D.C.
Additionally, accurate census data is important for putting together informed public policy and effective community planning.
“Our democracy’s strength relies on representation, and the 2020 Census is integral to making sure that Oregonians receive their fair share of federal resources and congressional representation over the next decade,” Gov. Kate Brown said in a written statement. “From more dollars for our schools and hospitals to ensuring our roads are safe and well kept, the census has a significant impact in the everyday lives of all Oregonians.”
What is OYA Doing for the Census?
Oregon Counts 2020 has set up ways for people living in group quarters (such as OYA’s close custody facilities, residential programs, and foster homes) to report how many people are living at one location. Staff will handle how each location’s population is counted as of April 1, which is officially Count Day.
Families are only to count the members of the household currently living with them. OYA youth who do not live at home will be counted through OYA.
As is usual with any collection of public information, there are often barriers, due to misinformation, lack of information, or changes due to unforeseen circumstances. Here are a couple of the main concerns people might have with taking the Census.
COVID-19 Pandemic Displacing People: If someone, such as a college student, is just living with you temporarily due to the COVID-19, they should be counted where they ordinarily would be living on April 1.
Concerns that the Census is not Confidential: By law, the Census Bureau must protect people’s private information. This means the Census Bureau does not share answers with immigration, law enforcement, tax collection agencies, or any other organization. The penalty for doing so would be a fine up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years. Additionally, with this being the first Census that can be done online, all web submissions are encrypted in order to protect your privacy.
Don’t Fall for Scammers Posing as the Census Bureau: Unfortunately, while the U.S. Census Bureau tries to achieve the 2020 count, there is the likelihood of fraudulent contacts with citizens to obtain sensitive information. Be on the lookout for these scammers. During the 2020 count, the U.S. Census Bureau will not ask you for:
- your immigration or citizenship status
- your Social Security number
- your political party affiliation
- your bank or credit card information, or
- money or any type of donation or financial contribution.
Hard to Count Groups: Over the years, there are parts of the population that have largely gone uncounted. These include:
- Young children
- Native and Tribal communities
- Highly mobile people
- Non-English speakers
- Undocumented immigrants
- Racial/ethnic minorities
- Rural and low income families
- People experiencing homelessness
- The LGBTQ+ community
- People with mental and/or physical disabilities
In Oregon, the We Count Oregon campaign has been launched to help ensure these communities understand the importance of and take the 2020 Census.
How to Participate
Most households (95%) will have received in the mail in March an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. The mailed message invites people to respond via mail, phone, or online.
The questionnaire is available in 12 non-English languages. Language guides, glossaries, and identification cards are also being provided in 59 non-English languages.
The U.S. Census Bureau will follow up with households that do not respond at all, but also households that do not answer all the provided questions. Answering all the questions will reduce the chance you will be contacted in person by the Census Bureau.