Why completing the 2020 Census is important to North Carolina

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Diane Peltz – Contributing Writer

The 2020 Census counts every person living in the United States and five U.S. territories.

The count is mandated by the Constitution and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. The 2020 Census counts the population in the United States and five U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). Each home would have received an invitation to respond to a short questionnaire—online, by phone, or by mail—between March 12-20.  The census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for the community. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and other resources based on census data.

Why the government needs 

your information 

The results of the census determines the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the data is used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

It’s also in the Constitution: Article 1, Section 2, mandates that the country conduct a count of its population once every 10 years. The 2020 Census will mark the 24th time that the country has counted its population since 1790.

Census results influence highway planning and construction, as well as grants for buses, subways, and other public transit systems.

Census results help determine how money is allocated for the Head Start program and for grants that support teachers and special education.

Census data helps communities respond to natural disasters and secure funding for hospitals and fire departments.

The list goes on, including programs to support rural areas, to restore wildlife, to prevent child abuse, to prepare for wildfires, and to provide housing assistance for older adults.

Over the next decade, lawmakers, business owners, and many others will use 2020 Census data to make critical decisions. The results will show where communities need new schools, new clinics, new roads, and more services for families, older adults, and children.

The results will also establish how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to more than 100 programs, including Medicaid, Head Start, block grants for community mental health services, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. 

North Carolina lags behind in reporting

The State of North Carolina does not have dedicated funds to support the 2020 Census operation. Currently, North Carolina is lagging in Census participation. As of this week, N.C. ranks 38th nationally for self-response participation with 46.6 percent of households responding. More than ever, North Carolina depends on an accurate count to receive its share of $1.5 trillion in federal funding that will be critical for programs, services and infrastructure as the state recovers from COVID-19. In response to COVID-19 the Census operation has been extended to Oct. 31, 2020, which means that the state gets one more shot to make an investment in North Carolina’s economic future for the next 10 years.

There is still time to turn in your census

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Census Bureau is adjusting 2020 Census operations in order to:

 • Protect the health and safety of the American public and Census Bureau employees.

• Implement guidance from federal, state and local authorities.

• Ensure a complete and accurate count of all communities.

The Census Bureau temporarily suspended 2020 Census field data collection activities in March. Steps are already being taken to reactivate field offices beginning June 1, in preparation for the resumption of field data collection operations as quickly as possible following June 1. This means that residents still have time to get their census data in by mail or online before the deadline of Oct. 31, to submit their data. Field operations will resume in June and operations employees will be going door to door to help anyone who needs assistance filling out the census.

Confidentiality is key

The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to keep collected information confidential. Under Title 13, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies. The law ensures that your private data is protected and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court. Violating Title 13 is a federal crime, punishable by prison time and/or a fine of up to $250,000.

The answers you provide are used only to produce statistics. Respondents are kept anonymous: The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release responses in any way that could identify respondents or anyone else in the home. No question regarding citizenship appears on the census. 

Make a video, earn money

Census accelerate, an initiative within the innovation arm of the U.S. Census Bureau has launched its first-ever video prize competition to reward the most engaging, impactful, and informative videos about the 2020 Census – with a total of $50,000 in cash prizes.  The objective of the challenge is to use creative videos to reach hard-to-count communities. 

This initiative calls for the most impactful, accurate, inspiring, funny, creative, factual and culturally relevant videos to educate the masses about the 2020 Census and mobilize communities to respond, reminding them that it’s not too late to self-respond online, by phone or by mail. The challenge will focus on short-format video content-30 seconds to 3 minutes in length-for social, platforms like YouTube.

The U.S. Census Bureau will be awarding a total of $50,000 for video submissions that can encourage hard to count communities to fill out the 2020 Census – $30,000 – Grand Prize; $10,000 – Runner Up Prize; and a $10,000 – Student Prize.

Submissions close on May 7 at 11:59 pm EDT. Winners will be announced in early June.

Go to, GetOutTheCountVideoChallnge,  for specific details on how to enter. 

Student applicants can still be considered for the grand prize or runner up prize.

Students under the age of 18 are permitted to apply for the Prize Challenge with a consent form signed by a parent or guardian. Email census.accelerate@census.gov  to request this form.

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