East Falls Now Article: Everyone Counts

You may think it is too late to be counted as part of the decennial census, but I assure you it is not. The U.S. Census is a topic that has been in the news as of late, and understanding its impact is important in considering WHY it has been in the news.

First, the census is a once every 10-year event when all persons residing in the United States are counted. The first census was conducted in 1790.

The Census Bureau is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce

The purpose of the census is to provide facts and figures about America’s people, places, and economy.

Why is this counting ritual so important? It is critical to know how many people live in the country and more specifically where they reside locally because this information determines how money is distributed from the federal government to state and local governments. The federal government uses census numbers to allocate more than $675 billion in federal funds annually.

This information also determines how many U.S. Representatives Pennsylvania can elect to Congress. In 1970 Pennsylvania had 25 seats in Congress; in 1992 our congressional delegation was 21. In 2022 our congressional delegation is anticipated to number 17, losing one seat from our current 18. This population information also determines how boundaries are redrawn for state senate and representative districts.

On August 3, 2020, the Census Bureau confirmed that they will be accelerating their operational plans to complete data collection and apportionment counts by the statutory deadline of December 31, 2020. This means that the deadline for field data collection will be September 30, and self-response will also close at that time. (Originally the census was to conclude October 31 due to COVID-19.)

As of the beginning of August, 4 out of 10 households nationwide have not been counted yet. The rushed deadline will increase the likelihood that historically undercounted groups will be excluded from the census once again in 2020.

COVID-19 is a stark reminder of the importance of the census, including federal funding for health care. The arrival of the pandemic in Philadelphia has impacted local businesses, hospitals, and the city’s general way of life. In addition to determining how much funding our city receives for essential public services residents use every day, Census data is also used to plan for emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Census data can be used to estimate the spread of diseases, order vaccines, and plan for contact tracing. In order to recover from the social and economic impacts of COVID-19, and to prepare for a resurgence in cases, we need an accurate count of all residents. 

The communities facing the greatest impact from the pandemic are also the communities most likely to be missed in the count. We will need to make sure people within those hard-to-count communities get counted in the 2020 Census, so that challenges they are already facing are not further exacerbated for the next decade. 

If you completed a census questionnaire on April 1, Census Day, or any time before or after, thank you. If you did not complete a census questionnaire, chances were that someone has been to your house to talk to you about completing a questionnaire or left information for you if you were not at home.

There is a short form and a long form. The long form is sent randomly to households. The short form consists of 10 questions.

There are different ways that deployed troops, college students, incarcerated people, and other groups in unique living situations (such as parents with shared custody of children) are counted.

Deployed troops are counted at the U.S. residence they live and sleep most of the time.

College students are counted at the on or off campus residence where they live and sleep most of the time.

People in federal and state prisons on Census Day are counted where they are incarcerated.

People in local jails and other municipal confinement facilities on Census Day are also counted where they are incarcerated.

The U.S. census counts everyone regardless of citizenship status.

Census forms were mailed to each household and you can still respond by filling out the form; calling a toll-free number 844-330-2020 or, for the first time, you can complete the form online at mycensus2020.gov.