As our country—and the world—battles its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be difficult to focus on much else. Lives and livelihoods are at stake. None of it is to be taken lightly. Even so, we must continue pursuing life as best we can under the present circumstances. Because together, we will get through this. There is something else we need to do together right now—participate in the U.S. Census. Today is Census Day. Yes, it’s terrible timing, but we only get one chance every ten years to be accurately counted, ensuring that our community receives appropriate funding and representation.
If you’ve already participated in Census 2020, thank you! You’re off the hook. In fact, you don’t even have to read the rest of this article. But if you haven’t yet, this one’s for you.
In the March 11 Explorer, Jeff Gardner wrote a great piece on how census data impacts the funding received by Arizona and local municipalities. (If you didn’t get a chance to read it, you should.) In short, an accurate census count is critical to ensuring we receive the funding we need for programs and services. The census is important to our quality of life.
To help spread the word, our partners at the Pima Association of Governments (PAG) have led the charge on regional public education efforts. To support those efforts, the Town of Oro Valley also put together some information that may be of particular interest to Oro Valley residents. We’ve gathered a list of the most frequently asked questions by Oro Valley’s residents and have posted answers to the Town’s website at www.orovalleyaz.gov/census2020. But for those of you who prefer reading an actual newspaper (instead of staring at a computer screen), here’s a snapshot of what you’ll find on our website.
How do I participate?
By today—April 1, 2020—every home should have received an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. You will have three options for responding: online, by phone or by mail. The 2020 Census marks the first time you will be invited to respond online—even on your mobile device. Choose the option that is most comfortable for you. If you didn’t receive your invitation via mail, or to learn more, visit www.2020census.gov.
Is my personal information confidential?
Your responses to the 2020 Census are safe, secure, and protected by federal law. Your answers can only be used to produce statistics—they cannot be used against you in any way. By law, all responses to U.S. Census Bureau household and business surveys are kept completely confidential.
How do I avoid frauds and scams?
Unfortunately, we live in a time when some individuals may try to use the census as a cover for fraudulent activity. When it comes to email, keep a watchful eye. Phishing emails often direct you to a website that looks real but is fake. Phishing is a criminal act in which someone tries to get your information by pretending to be an entity that you trust. It is important to know that the Census Bureau will not send unsolicited emails to request your participation in the 2020 Census. Further, during the 2020 Census, the Census Bureau will never ask for your Social Security number, your bank account or credit card numbers or money or donations.
Census workers may visit your home. But before allowing anyone in your home or providing personal information, ask them to verify their identity. Check to make sure that they have a valid ID badge, with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. If you suspect fraud, call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local Census Bureau representative. If it is determined that the visitor who came to your door does not work for the Census Bureau, contact the Oro Valley Police Department.
Are there ADA/accessible accommodations?
Absolutely! The official census website, www.2020census.gov, is a 508-compliant website accessible to people with blindness or low vision, deafness or hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, photosensitivity, and various combinations of these. If you have blindness or low vision, you can print a questionnaire guide in braille or large print. If you have deafness or a hearing loss, you may respond to the census using telephone devices for hearing impaired. You can access video guides to the questionnaire in American Sign Language. You can also view online videos and webcasts with closed or open captioning. Anyone needing additional assistance completing their form may request a visit from a census taker.
What if I’m a snowbird?
If you’re holding this paper right now, chances are you should fill out the census as an Oro Valley resident. According to FederalRegister.gov, snowbirds, or people who live or stay at two or more residences, should be counted at the residence where they live and sleep most of the time. If they cannot determine a place where they live most of the time, they are counted where they are staying on Census Day, April 1, 2020.
One last thing
If you needed a little motivation to get you started, remember this: citizens who don’t fill out their census completely and by April 1 will likely get a knock on their door from census workers. So if you’d like one less house guest, the clock is ticking!
Misti Nowak is the Oro Valley Communications Administrator.