More than 100 million households across America, including those in Indianapolis, will begin receiving invitations by mail this week to respond to the U.S. Census.
Invitations are expected to arrive sometime between Thursday and March 20 and will direct heads of households to respond online, by phone or by mail.
The U.S. Constitution mandates a census of the population every 10 years. The data collected is used to determine how much federal funding states and local communities receive. The Census also is used to allocate the number of seats each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Nationally, more than $1.5 trillion is at stake. In Indiana, more than $31 billion is on the line for about 6.7 million residents.
If fewer people are counted, less money is allocated to the state. The money funds programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, federal student loans and highway projects, but it also goes toward low-income housing, school lunches, foster care and adoption support, and unemployment insurance administration.
This is the first time residents will have the option, and are being encouraged, to respond online since the first Census count in 1790.
That means most invitations from the Census Bureau won’t include a paper form. Instead, residents will be directed to a website or a phone number to call.
The 2020 Census questionnaire is available in 13 languages, covering the needs of 99% of all U.S. households, according to the Census Bureau. To reach even more people, the Census Bureau will also provide video language guides, print language guides, and glossaries in 59 non-English languages, including American Sign Language, Braille, and large print.
There is no citizenship question included in the 2020 Census.
The mailed invitations will provide each household with a Census ID, which will be used by the head of household to complete the questionnaire. People can also enter their home address to access the form.
The questionnaire must be completed in one sitting, which the Census Bureau estimates should take an average of 10 minutes. Households will respond using one form only, regardless of whether the people living in the home are blood-related or no. Roommates, friends and extended family all count on the same form. Every child living in the residence needs to be counted as well, including newborns.
April 1 is Census Day—the point in time households will reference when filling out their forms. Even if residents have moved since Census Day, they will record where they were living April 1.
Households are required by law to respond to the Census and will receive up to four reminders. If there is no response to those invitations, a Census worker will follow up in-person at the home sometime between May 13 and July 31.
In Indianapolis and Marion County, Count Me INdy is dedicated to promoting the Census to all residents. Count Me INdy’s goal is to maximize the self-response rate of Marion County residents in the 2020 Census and overcome challenges associated with knowledge, vulnerability and access.
To do so, Count Me INdy has partnered with a wide variety of organizations, including LUNA Language Services, Indiana Disability Rights, Indiana School for the Blind and the Indianapolis Public Library, to provide Count Me INdy Days throughout Marion County from March 15 through April 30. Count Me INdy Ambassadors or U.S. Census workers will be at the sites for several hours on set days to answer questions and help with the self-response process for people who need assistance or don’t have access to the internet at home.