You can re­spond to cen­sus on­line

US res­i­dents have un­til July 31 to an­swer forms

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS - Mary Hu­ber Austin Amer­i­can- States­man

AUSTIN, Texas – It’s the dawn of a new decade, and in re­mote ar­eas of Alaska, U. S. Cen­sus Bureau work­ers have al­ready set off to begin count­ing res­i­dents as part of the once- ev­ery- 10year cen­sus, try­ing to reach them be­fore the frozen tun­dra thaws and the re­gion no longer is ac­ces­si­ble.

Thank­fully, the process to be counted else­where will be much sim­pler.

This year, for the first time, res­i­dents will be able to re­spond to the 2020 cen­sus ques­tion­naire on­line or by phone.

Letters invit­ing peo­ple to fill out their forms will begin ar­riv­ing in mail­boxes as early as March 12. The dead­line to re­spond is July 31, and par­tic­i­pa­tion is re­quired by fed­eral law.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has been count­ing peo­ple ev­ery 10 years since 1790. In to­tal, $ 6.3 bil­lion has been bud­geted for this year’s process. The Cen­sus Bureau will hire half a mil­lion tem­po­rary work­ers na­tion­wide to help with the count.

In its 230 years, the Cen­sus Bureau has come up with the most com­pre­hen­sive mail­ing list of any fed­eral agency. From Au­gust to Oc­to­ber, field work­ers went into cities and ru­ral ar­eas to check for any new phys­i­cal struc­tures and homes to add to its database.

Start­ing in mid- March, peo­ple will begin re­ceiv­ing letters that in­clude a unique num­ber they will en­ter on­line. The let­ter also will have a phone num­ber that peo­ple can call to re­spond to the ques­tions in 13 lan­guages.

Love­day said those in hard- tore­ach ar­eas with spotty in­ter­net ac­cess will re­ceive a pa­per ques­tion­naire in their first mail­ing to en­sure they have plenty of time to re­spond.

If you ac­ci­den­tally ditch the let­ter, don’t worry. You’ll re­ceive sev­eral re­minders, in­clud­ing:

❚ A sec­ond let­ter March 16- 24.

❚ A post­card re­minder be­tween March 26 and April 3.

❚ A fourth let­ter around April 8, which will in­clude a pa­per ques­tion­naire.

❚ A final mail­ing around April 20, with an “It’s not too late to re­spond” post­card.

Start­ing May 13, any­one who has not re­sponded can ex­pect a knock on the door from a cen­sus “enu­mer­a­tor,” who will try to count them in per­son. That will con­tinue into the sum­mer to en­sure ev­ery­one is counted by July 31.

The form in­cludes only a hand­ful of ques­tions, in­clud­ing the name, race, sex and date of birth of ev­ery­one liv­ing in the house­hold as of April 1, 2020. The cen­sus ques­tion­naire will not in­clude a cit­i­zen­ship ques­tion, af­ter the U. S. Supreme Court blocked the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s at­tempt to add it to the form.

The bureau has as­sured res­i­dents that per­sonal data col­lected can­not be shared with other agen­cies, such as Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment or the Home­land Se­cu­rity Depart­ment, and, be­fore it is pub­lished, it is stripped of all per­sonal iden­tifiable in­for­ma­tion. Cen­sus records are kept pri­vate for 72 years, af­ter which the Na­tional Ar­chives re­leases them to the pub­lic to be used for ge­neal­ogy.

All cen­sus work­ers must take a life­time oath to pro­tect per­sonal in­for­ma­tion. Vi­o­la­tions are pun­ish­able by up to five years in jail and a $ 250,000 fine.

MICHELLE R. SMITH/ AP

Par­tic­i­pa­tion in the cen­sus is re­quired by law.

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