Get Counted | Urban Living

Get Counted

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Next month, you'll get an envelope from the government that isn't your tax refund. Instead, it's a 2020 Census form you can fill out and mail or go online to complete. If you ignore the questionnaire, a census taker will come knockin' on your door to ask you a bunch of questions. Don't start looking for the nearest exit—the Census ocurs every 10 years and is mandated by the Constitution. The Census Bureau can impose fines for failing to answer or intentionally providing false information.

Questions include, "How many people are living in your home as of April 1, 2020?" This is to help the government count the entire U.S. population. "Is this a house, apartment or mobile home, and if this home is owned by you, is there a mortgage on the home?" This information helps produce statistics about home ownership and renting. Ownership can be a direct indicator of the country's economic health. In an ideal world, renting stats can help increase or create housing programs. A mortgage is most often public record and the census taker can look up an address to determine who holds the mortgage. Another asks, "What's your phone number?" Census workers might call later to clarify information or ask for more specifics.

The Census Bureau also wants to know the name of the person who pays the rent or mortgage and the sex of that person. Why? Again, to create statistics to better understand where different age groups live. One of the contentious questions this year is, "Is the person paying rent or mortgage of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin?" The bureau uses this information to help federal agencies monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as those in the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. Many folks think that this is an excuse for the government to ferret out undocumented immigrants, which officials deny. The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the citizenship question.

Census workers are paid $15 per hour. The bureau wants to hire 5,000 Utahns to help count or knock on doors. The application is online and the agency hopes to hire bilingual temp employees who will work in their own towns to find people who don't respond or to track down Native Americans in rural areas. Flexible hours, paid training and weekly paychecks to count heads isn't a bad job and training starts ASAP.

Fill it out, people! Conspiracy theories about the census are rampant. But it gets us better federal funding in many areas and could result in more representation in Congress. To find out more about what's coming in the mail or to apply, go to 2020census.gov.

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