Questions and Answers about Census 2020


Within the next few weeks, Americans will start to see a slew of national television ads regarding the census.

These ads are aimed at preparing Americans to participate in the Census 2020. And here in the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe communities of Districts I, II, and III and the Urban Area, the Census Complete Count Commit- tee has been planning their own educational and preparedness series aimed at Mille Lacs Band members with the goal of ac- tivating our community for 100 percent full cooperation in the Census. They are still looking for members to join in and help shape our future.

The Inaajimowin recently sat down to talk with Shelly Diaz, (Urban Liaison and 2020 Census Coordinator for the Tribal Hub), to ask some frequently asked questions about Census 2020.

Q: What is the Census anyway?

A: There are numerous surveys that the Census Bureau con- ducts, but the one that we are preparing for is the decennial 2020 census, which is taken every 10 years. The federal government counts the population to determine where to allocate resources, meaning how much funding our schools, clinics, highways, and housing programs are granted. The data collected is also used by businesses for locations.

Q: I think the Census is dumb. Why do I have to fill it out?

A: I can understand how some may think it’s just another government piece of paper and a waste of time, but I assure you that it is especially important for 2020. We are at risk of losing one Minnesota congressional seat, which means less representation in DC to be our voices. Not only that, if we are not counted, there could be a re-districting of electoral boundaries that could have detrimental effects for our communities.

Q: I am really busy with kids, job, school, everything. My life is crazy and I barely have time to breathe. Is this Census thing going to take a lot of my time?

A: Kids, school, and jobs are the motivating factors to complete the 2020 Census. These are all impacted by the data and count from the census. Lack of time shouldn’t be an excuse for NOT completing the census; it is only 10 questions and will take about 10 minutes. You have three ways that you can complete the survey: Online via computer, smartphone, or tablet; by phone; or request a paper survey. And you will have an entire month to schedule time to get it done!

Q: When do I have to do this Census thing?

A: Census Day is observed nationally on April 1, 2020; you will receive an invitation by postcard from the US Census by March 20 and will have details that I just listed for ways that you can complete the form. Census takers will begin visiting homes that have not responded beginning May 1.

Q: I don’t want everybody to know my business. I am uncomfortable sharing my personal information. How do you keep it private?

A: The 10 questions that are asked on the survey are basically about who lives in your household, the age, sex, and race of each person, and the dwelling type and phone number in case they have follow-up questions. They will not ask for Social Security numbers or bank information. The U.S. Census Bureau is bound by law to protect your answers and keep them strictly confidential. In fact, every employee takes an oath to protect your personal information for life.

Q: Do I have to do it? Am I required by law to fill out the Census? Can I go to jail if I don’t do it?

A: We should all want to do it. This will impact our lives for the next 10 years. We need to think about our children, who will be impacted most through funding of schools, clinics, lunch programs, and child care. You will not go to jail, but if you’re over 18 and refuse to answer all or part of the census, you can be fined up to $100. Let’s all make this OUR Census as an exercise of our sovereignty!

Q: What if I skip a question? Like, you know, I don’t want to answer one question?

A: You don’t have to answer all the questions, but you may get a follow-up phone call asking for your answer.

Q: What if I just don’t answer the door when they knock?

A: You don’t have to have anyone knock on your door if you self-respond online, on your smartphone, by phone, or by mail. It is so important to make sure everyone is counted, that census takers will make three attempts to contact you to complete the survey. If they are unable to contact you, they may ask a neighbor to answer the questions.

Q: What if someone who usually lives in my household is not actually living here on April 1, like if they are away at college or in jail?

A: Those are considered group quarters where people live or stay in a group living arrangement. These places are owned or managed by an entity or organization that provides residents with housing and/or services. They will be counted by census takers in a separate way.

Q: How are foster kids counted?

A: The census counts everyone where they live and sleep most of the time, even if the living arrangement is temporary or the parents of the child do not live there. This would include foster kids, children living with relatives, grandparents, or others if there is split custody between the parents.