SAN LUIS VALLEY - “Don’t forget the census it is so important,” said Mayor Dale Becker as he ended the last Monte Vista City Council meeting adding, “Tell your friends, tell your grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles, everybody. It’s very important that you guys do the census. It’s valuable to this community, it’s valuable to the whole San Luis Valley. It means funding that will come back to this community so it’s very important. Encourage your relatives to please get the census done and taken care of.”
In 1790 the United States conducted its first census and there have been 24 decennial censuses since then. The last one in recent time was completed in 2010. Citizens are required to participate in the U.S. census by law as laid out in Title 13 of the United States Code. The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the United States Code. These laws not only provide authority for the work done, but also provide strong protection for the information collected from individuals and businesses.
Title 13 provides the following protections to individuals and businesses:
Private information is never published. It is against the law to disclose or publish any private information that identifies an individual or business such, including names, addresses (including GPS coordinates), Social Security Numbers, and telephone numbers.
The Census Bureau collects information to produce statistics. Personal information cannot be used against respondents by any government agency or court.
Census Bureau employees are sworn to protect confidentiality. People sworn to uphold Title 13 are legally required to maintain the confidentiality of your data. Every person with access to your data are sworn for life to protect your information and understand that the penalties for violating this law are applicable for a lifetime.
Violating the law is a serious federal crime. Anyone who violates this law will face severe penalties, including a federal prison sentence of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.
Federal Funding is one of the reasons why the census is conducted every 10 years. The results from the census help determine how more than $675 billion in federal funding is assigned to states and communities across the country. Every year these funds go toward building new schools, hospitals, roads and more. Part of this funding also goes to Medicaid, WIC, foster care and other programs. All of these federal funds are based on population data, which is why there is a great push to get as complete a count as possible.
The results of the 2020 census will also decide the number of seats a state will have in the House of Representatives. The number of members of the House of Representatives is capped at 435. Colorado has seven representatives in Washington and the state can lose or gain representatives depending on shifts in population. The county commissioner districts are divided similarly, and this is also how the state gets divided. By participating in the census, smaller rural areas can possibly receive more representation in Denver and Washington.
The 2020 census is also the first census ever that can be filled out online. It is available on phones and computers. They will also send the census questionnaire through the mail. Some places will have the census hand-delivered. There will also be anywhere from 6 to 7 mailouts if you do not respond by filling out the first questionnaire received. If you still do not answer an enumerator will actually come to your door with a hand-delivered census.
The information you share in the census is confidential, and they only release track data not individual data. However the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will release the census returns after 72 years have elapsed in 2092. This is how information on ancestry can be gathered. Currently the last census to have it’s data information released was from the 1940s.