Ramelle Pulitzer: Make sure you are counted in census

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STOCKBRIDGE — Pass the word: It's no joke! It's time to count me in!

Welcome to National 2020 Census season! April 1, known as National Census Day since 1930, was the kick-off! All surveys are to reflect a snapshot of this day. Of course, that date has come and gone, but the open window to complete the census is open now, scheduled to wrap up in July.

The Central Berkshire County Unit of the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan organization, is committed to a fair and accurate 2020 Census. A complete count of the county ensures first and foremost fair representation of state and federal districts set by population. The results are the basis for distribution of vital federal funding for all communities. If we are not diligent, there could be drastic effects from a census undercount, especially in rural Berkshire County where the population data continues to reflect a decline since 2010. For perspective, based on that count, Berkshire County has received $2,700 per person per year in federal funds.

TAKE 10 MINUTES

Since the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, the United States has counted the population each decade following the mandate set in Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution. No simple task! Think of all the challenges to collect the data through the different circumstances of each of those decades! For example, it took 650 census takers eighteen months to ask six questions in order to enumerate the population of the new republic in 1790. By 1840, the census was printed rather than written by hand. In 2020, for the first time, the Census is available on-line. www.2020census.gov. And it can still be filled out on a paper form, to be delivered to every household that has not yet sent a digital reply. Or you can simply make a phone call: 844-330-2020.

Let's avoid that extra time and expense that this project might cost us. Take 10 minutes today! Remember the slogan: Count Me In! By responding online, you will be helping the US government conserve natural resources, save taxpayer money and more efficiently process the data.

Your data is kept confidential as ruled in 1950. That is when it was mandated that the confidentiality of individual privacy is for an actuarial lifetime of 72 years. The records are held by the National Archives where your information by law is protected until April 2, 2092.

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Everyone is to be counted in all 50 states and the 5 territories. In Massachusetts, the early response rate of completed census surveys is at 42% one percentage point above the national return - so far. This percentage needs to increase to 100% in the next weeks! Stay up to date on the progress by visiting the website.

The head of household fills out one census for the family. If two people fill out a census for the same family, they will be weeded out. You will not be asked your social security number or your status as a citizen. You will be asked your address, with several options to choose from homeowner to homeless. You will be asked your race and ethnic origin; how many are living in your household, their names and ages, male or female. Be SURE to include the children, as the funding for school lunches, the WIC program and others will be based on this number for the next ten years!

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Once you have filed your own form, it is a good time to encourage others to do so as well. Paul Mark, state representative. from Peru, has written, "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."

If no one in a family has filled out the survey, a census worker will be assigned to find who is living in the house. If they can't find any one at the house, nobody there will be counted. If you should meet a census worker, they will be wearing an ID badge. The plan is to be collecting data from non responders during May and June, with the goal to complete the project by July — extended to August 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is more important than ever to fill out the survey promptly.

WHY IT MATTERS

What is determined using the census data:

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Education: Census data is used to allocate dollars for special education, school lunches, improving teacher quality and Head Start programs.

Health: Census data is used to determine where community health centers are placed to better serve patients and aid current health disparities.

Political representation: Census data is used to draw the state and federal legislative district lines that ultimately determine the elected officials who represent us.

It's no joke! We should all welcome 2020Census! Stand up and be counted!

We will ALL thank you!

Ramelle Pulitzer is the League of Women Voters, Central Berkshire County Unit president.


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