Be sure to keep a close eye on your mail next month. Beginning March 12, the Census Bureau will begin mailing materials and instructions for how to respond to the 2020 Census.

Why does the federal government conduct a census? Are they just being nosy?

The U.S. Constitution requires that a count of all residents of the United States take place every 10 years. The first census took place in 1790, recording a population of almost 4 million. The goal of the census is to conduct as accurate a count as possible of the number of people who live in the United States.

This count of residents in the country is essential to help the government determine how many representatives each state shall have in the House of Representatives. The government also uses data from the census to determine funding needs for hundreds of federal programs, as well as determining funding for states.

For instance, Kansas receives more than $6 billion in federal funding every year. If just 1 percent of people who live in Kansas fail to be counted, the state would lose over $6 million dollars over the next 10 years.

Once you receive the materials from the Census Bureau, you will be able to respond by mail, phone, or for the first time, online. Each respondent will be issued a specific ID number to use when they respond to the survey. The questionnaire will be available online in 13 languages.

The Census Bureau will ask for answers to just 10 questions from each respondent: name, relationship to householder, phone number, if you own/rent, age, number of people in household, sex, your usual place of residence, race and Hispanic origin. You will not be asked about your citizenship.

For residents of the Derby area who may not have internet access in their homes, the online response option is still available by using the computer labs at the library, the Derby Senior Center and the Oaklawn Activity Center.

If a person doesn’t complete the survey, a census taker will do a follow up visit in order to get a more accurate count of residents.

United States law prevents the Census Bureau from sharing any personal information about respondents with any other government agency or any private group or individual for any reason. The Census Bureau can only share the general data that it gathers.

That data is used by businesses, schools, and local, state and federal governments to keep their communities and economies as robust as possible. It helps these organizations get infrastructure, goods and services where they are needed.

You can find more information about the census at KansasCounts.org.

So, when you see that envelope from the Census Bureau, don’t push it aside. Be sure to open it, read the information, and stand up and be counted.

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