Paul Mark: Census count crucial to Berkshires

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PERU — The 2020 U.S. Census will be taking place soon with the official "Census Day" of April 1, 2020 happening approximately two months from now. The Census is required under Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution which states that the actual enumeration must take place every ten years. The Constitution then specifies that the Census numbers will be the basis for the apportionment of representatives in Congress. The number of representatives in Congress also determines the number of electoral votes each state shall have in the presidential election.

As chairman of the House Committee on Redistricting I have worked with my committee members to actively support efforts to make sure that a full, fair, and accurate Census count happens in Massachusetts. Census data is the foundation upon which our legislative districts at the state House of Representatives, state Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives are built. An accurate Census count ensures that we receive the political voice we are entitled to in both Boston and Washington. It is important that each of us is prepared to fill out the Census and to encourage our friends, family, and neighbors to do the same.

KEEP OUR VOICE

The good news for Massachusetts is that population estimates suggest we should not lose a member of our U.S. Congressional delegation this time around. We unfortunately did lose a Congressional seat during the 2010-2011 process. Population estimates show that Massachusetts is growing at an approximately 5 percent rate and has an estimated population just over 6,900,000 people, roughly keeping pace with the nation.

However, some parts of the state are not growing as rapidly. Berkshire County is predicted to show a decline in population. Also, some communities, especially immigrant communities, are at high risk for being undercounted. We all have a role to play in making sure that our friends, neighbors, and family members know about the census and are not afraid to answer questions. A community that is undercounted will be underrepresented. It is so important that we have a complete count to keep as much of our voice and political power in tact as possible.

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The Census is also the basis for the allocation of more than $675 billion in federal money and hundreds of state and federal programs that distribute funding, grants, and other supports to the states, counties, and municipalities. This money ends up being spent on roads, schools, public works projects, hospitals, and so many other important programs that people in our communities rely upon every single day. Filling out the Census fully and accurately helps ensure that we are receiving our fair share of the funds we all pay for and our communities deserve.

SAFE, SECURE

It is also important to make sure that everyone understands that filling out the Census is safe and confidential. Every piece of information that is collected by Census workers is protected under federal law. The Census is prohibited by law from sharing their data with any other federal or local agency, including law enforcement officials. Every Census Bureau employee takes an oath to protect the confidentiality of the data they collect. That oath is sworn for life and carries significant criminal penalties for any violations.

While the Census itself is safe and secure it is also important to make sure people protect themselves against Census related scams and opportunities for identity theft. The Census will never ask you for personal financial information or sensitive identification information including money or donations, your full Social Security Number, anything on behalf of a political party, your full bank or credit card account numbers, or your mother's maiden name. If you suspect fraudulent activity, please contact the National Processing Center at 1 (800) 523-3205 or forward along suspicious emails to ois.fraud.reporting@census.gov. You can learn more about tips for avoiding fraud and scams related to the Census at https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/surveyhelp/fraudulent-activity-and-scams.html.

Our efforts for a complete and accurate Census will continue over the coming months. Please take part in this important effort and encourage others to do so as well. If we get it wrong, we are stuck with the results for the next 10 years. Let's make sure Berkshire County counts fully and receives our fair share.

Paul Mark is the state representative for the 2nd Berkshire District.


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