By Bill Redmond-Palmer

This year the twenty-fourth census is currently underway, and it’s important that everyone participates, to ensure that Maryland receives all the funding and representation it deserves.

The United States Constitution requires that a census of the entire population, citizens and noncitizens alike in all the states and territories be made every ten years. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution directs that the census will be used to determine the number of members of the U.S. House of Representatives from each state, and it is used to allocate hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding and services that each state receives for education, housing and health programs.

The results will show where communities need new schools, clinics, and roads, and more services for families, older adults and children. They will inform how funding is allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. This funding helps hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and other resources. It also provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers and many others use to provide daily services, products and support for you and your community.

The census includes questions asking the following:

  • How many people live in your house apartment or mobile home; what kind of dwelling it is; and your telephone number.
  • Person 1’s name, sex, age, date of birth, race, and whether they are of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.
  • Person 2 (if applicable), whether or not they usually live or stay somewhere else, and how they are related to person 1.
  • Questions related to additional household members.

The options available to the question of how person 2 is related to person 1 are as follows:

  • Opposite-sex husband/wife/spouse or opposite-sex unmarried partner.
  • Same-sex husband/wife/spouse or same-sex unmarried partner.
  • Biological son or daughter, adopted son or daughter, or stepson or stepdaughter.
  • Brother or sister, father or mother, or grandchild.
  • Parent-in-law, son-in-law or daughter-in-law.
  • Other relative.
  • Roommate or housemate, foster child or other non-relative.

While the census clearly does not collect information on whether someone identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex, nor does it represent gender or any of the ways we define ourselves or all of the ways in which we form relationships, it does begin to allow for those who define themselves as in opposite sex relationships to be counted and represented.

During the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will never ask you for any of the following:

  • Your social security number.
  • Money or donations.
  • Anything on behalf of a political party.
  • Your bank or credit card account numbers.
  • Whether you are a U.S. citizen or not.

Beware of scams: if someone claiming to be from the Census Bureau contacts you via email or phone and asks you for one of these things, it’s a scam, and you should not cooperate. For more information, visit https://2020census.gov/en/avoiding-fraud.html.

If someone visits your home to collect a response for the 2020 Census, you can do the following to verify their identity:

  • First, check to make sure that they have a valid ID badge, with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date.
  • If you still have questions about their identity, you can call (844) 330-2020 to speak with a Census Bureau representative.

If you suspect fraud, call (844) 330-2020 to speak with a Census Bureau representative. If it is determined that the visitor who came to your door does not work for the Census Bureau, contact your local police department.

If you have a fixed home address you should have received one or more letters that are sent to each address with the invitation to respond to the census via mail, phone or online and should respond as soon as possible.

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is strongly encouraged to respond online at this time. You can respond online at https://2020census.gov/en/ways-to-respond.html.

Due to the various challenges created by COVID-19, the Census Bureau has adjusted their schedule for the various timeline events for the census. They will employ multiple strategies to ensure everyone gets counted.

  • The self-response period will now continue through Aug. 14.
  • Census takers will drop off forms at the doors of 5 million households between Mar. 29 and May 1.
  • Between Apr. 13 and Aug.14, Census Bureau staff will assist people in responding online at places such as grocery stores and community centers.
  • Between May 7 and Aug. 14, census takers will follow up with households that haven’t responded yet around some colleges and universities.
  • Between May 28 and Aug. 14, census takers will interview households in person that have not responded by mail, phone or online.
  • Between Apr. 16 and Jun. 19, the census bureau will work with administrators of facilities like nursing homes, prisons and student housing to choose an option for counting their residents that requires less in-person contact.
  • Between Apr. 29 and May 1, the bureau will work with service providers at soup kitchens, shelters and regularly scheduled food vans to count the people they serve.
  • On May 1, census takers will count people experiencing homelessness who are living under bridges, in parks, and in all night businesses.
  • From Apr. 23 to May 18, census takers will count people staying at campgrounds, RV parks, marinas, and hotels if they do not live elsewhere.

If you are one of the special groups who are listed above, or you know someone in those categories, please encourage them to be cognizant of the dates that counts will be taken.

Please note that due to the unpredictability of the situation around COVID-19, these dates are subject to change. Please visit https://2020census.gov/en/news-events/operational-adjustments-covid-19.html for more information about any of these changes.

Please consider sharing information about the census and encouraging those you know to respond on social media. You can find sharable images online at https://2020census.gov/en/how-to-help.html.