Frequently Asked Questions

The next Census will be conducted from March-May 2020. April 1 is National Census Day, so start thinking of ways for your nonprofit to help facilitate responses. Beginning in May, Census workers will go to door to door to count households that did not self-report. The count will be finalized by December 31, 2020.

Federal, state, and local governments use Census data to determine how tax dollars and other resources are allocated.

  • Washington State receives approximately $13.7 billion in federal funds for a variety of human service, community development, and health programs.
    • Each missed household in the census count costs Washington State approximately $9,210 in federal funds.
  • The Washington State Legislature allocates approximately $200 million in state funds for programs based off of census data.
  • Local governments use census data to determine where development should take place and how local dollars should be spent.

Nonprofit organizations use census data to plan and target their services.

  • The data collected shows geographic areas that are underserved, which gives data that informs service delivery.
  • The data collected and published by the Census Bureau is also used to inform grant proposals and other projects designed to raise the quality of life in our communities.

The Census also determines how political boundaries are drawn.

  • The data collected helps inform Washington State’s Redistricting Committee’s work to ensure that legislative districts are drawn fairly so that communities are represented in Olympia and Washington, DC.

In March, each household in the United States will receive a letter or postcard from the Census Bureau with online participation instructions. We’ve been told that there will likely be additional letters or postcards sent out, in case people miss or misplace their initial letters.

There are indications that some may be reluctant to participate in the census due to fear of the government and concern that their information could be used to harm them or their families. This factsheet (click to download) provides background on the existing law regarding disclosure of census data by the Census Bureau. It is intended to help community leaders and respondents better understand the benefits and risks to individual respondents participating in the 2020 Census. 

The Census has traditionally undercounted certain communities and areas. Called by the Census Bureau Hard to Count Communities (HTC) and Areas by the Census Bureau, these are defined as communities and areas where completed surveys were returned via mail at much lower rates compared to numbers of occupied housing units that received questionnaires. For the Census Bureau, this HTC term includes racial minorities, young children, lower income persons, people who do not speak English fluently, undocumented immigrants, Native Americans, LGBTQ individuals, people experiencing homelessness, and those with severe distrust of the government. These are the very communities that are in need of equal representation in our government. If they are not counted accurately in the Census, they are at risk of being further disenfranchised from our government and services.

Insufficient funding for Field Operations

The Census Bureau has been underfunded for the 2020 cycle, causing a delay in planning and staffing operations. Experts recommend that the 2020 Census operations require an additional $194 million to the $1.654 billion currently requested for fiscal year 2018. To compare, the 2010 Census cost $13 billion. This underfunding has already resulted in canceled tests including two in Washington State and scaled back operations that affects outreach strategies for Hard-to-Count-communities.

The Citizenship Question

For the first time in 70 years the Census is planning to include a question asking if you are a U.S. citizen or not. This question creates an enormous fear and distrust in for native-and foreign-born, citizen and non-citizen households – about the confidentiality of their personal information and how government authorities may use that information. As of now the question still remains in the Census questionnaire leaving a huge task for community leaders and allies to organize to remove it and to prepare for a challenging work ahead if the question becomes official.

The Digital Divide

To help close the funding gap, the Census Bureau has opted to use internet response options over traditional mail and canvasser outreach in 2020. Although this may be an initial cost-saving measure, it puts HTC communities and rural populations at risk of an undercount, including areas with limited to no access to broadband. Ensuring that historically marginalized communities are counted correctly in the 2020 Census is the first step to ensuring that they receive needed government resources and are represented in the redistricting process and policy debate moving forward.

The Blue Mountain Complete Count Committee (BMCCC) has been established under the U.S. Census Bureau’s Complete Count Committee program and is key to creating awareness in Washington state’s Columbia, Garfield, and Walla Walla Counties.

  • CCCs utilize local knowledge, influence, and resources to educate communities and promote the census through locally based, targeted outreach efforts.
  • CCCs provide a vehicle for coordinating and nurturing cooperative efforts between tribal, state, and local governments; communities; and the Census Bureau.
  • CCCs help the Census Bureau get a complete count in 2020 through partnerships with local governments and community organizations.

A CCC is comprised of a broad spectrum of government and community leaders from education, business, healthcare, and other community organizations. These trusted voices develop and implement a 2020 Census awareness campaign based upon their knowledge of the local community to encourage a response.

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