Local officials are taking the lead to make sure a complete count of residents is made during the 2020 Census this spring. Jefferson City and Cole County hosted a joint “Complete Count Committee” kick-off meeting earlier this week.
The count is mandated by the Constitution and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency. The 2020 Census counts the population in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). Each home will receive an invitation to respond to a short questionnaire—online, by phone, or by mail. This will mark the first time that you will be able to respond to the census online.
The census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for you and your community. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and other resources based on census data.
The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.
It's also in the Constitution: Article 1, Section 2, mandates that the country conduct a count of its population once every 10 years. The 2020 Census will mark the 24th time that the country has counted its population since 1790.
Participating in the census is required by law, even if you recently completed another survey from the Census Bureau.
With the implementation of telephones and the internet as methods for collecting information, Cole County Presiding Commissioner Sam Bushman has high hopes that 2020 will be the most accurate year for the Census.
“I’m optimistic that we may be able to get a better count than ever before,” Bushman said. “Ten years ago, you couldn’t do that. You had to use snail mail. You got (the Census) in the mail, you filled it out, and then you sent it back. If you didn’t send it back then Census takers would go out and knock on your door just to try to count everybody.”
Working more efficiently and more closely with Jefferson City, Bushman believes it’s important they get a proper count from the whole area. Especially when taking account for those that were affected or displaced by last year’s tornado.
“I think we can help each other. We want to count everybody,” Bushman said. “People are worried that after the tornado we’ve got displaced citizens or people that have left. I don’t think so, I think they’re living with their families or living with their friends. They’re living all over the place, so we have to find them and get them counted.”
“We’re looking forward to working together, the city and county, on the Census for 2020,” said Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin. “We encourage everyone to be counted. It’s very important that we work together to get the word out and encourage participation as we all look forward to Census and look forward to being counted.”
According to Bushman, everyone will be accounted for and their information will not be given to government agencies or courts and will be used for statistical purposes only. Bushman’s main concern lies in making sure people feel safe with their personal information.
“My main fear is that there are going to be a lot of scammers out there who are going to try to pose as Census takers and try to get social security numbers and banks account numbers, so that’s not going to be asked,” Bushman said. “We need to educate the people. That’s what I want to do. It’s a simple ten questions, it’s nothing personal like social security numbers, and we do need them to be counted.”
The Census is an ongoing process the Cole County Commission wants their residents to be aware of. According to Bushman, its important to be informed, accounted for, and secure with their personal information.
“Residents will receive notice to complete the Census online, by phone, or by mail. April 1 is Census day but in May, the US Census Bureau will begin following up in person with households that have not yet responded. You can do it by phone, you can do it by mail but be very careful. No one should be scammed or have information stolen,” Bushman said. “If you’re going to do it by phone you should be the person that initiates the call and not just necessarily give the information to somebody who calls and says I’m with the Census.”
The 2020 census will begin in remote parts of Alaska in January, but most U.S. households will receive mailings in March asking them to participate. In addition to the basic population count, the form asks for each person’s age, sex, Hispanic origin, race and relationship to the resident in their household who fills out the questionnaire.
Census workers will also have an opportunity to apply for work with a job fair set up by the Cole County Commission. As the new year continues so will work on the census and those organizing will continue to notify and educate residents.
“We’re probably going to hold a job fair at some point because, again, we need Census workers and my understanding is that a Census worker is going to make $13 to $23 per hour. So, for somebody who wants a part-time job, I think it could be beneficial,” said Bushman.
“I want the people of Cole County and Jefferson City to know that the Census is taking place. I’m hearing there are Census workers already out there in the field so if you get anything in the mail it probably isn’t bogus. But make sure to check with us. Make sure to check with the city or the county to make sure you’re not being duped.”