Why? The census directly impacts funding for key programs that affect your loved one.
The census is a headcount that occurs by law every 10 years, beginning in 1790. The census law is found in Article 1 Section 2 of the constitution. This law goes beyond any hidden agenda of any administration, despite what you may hear in the media. On December 31, 2020 the President of the United States will get a headcount. Nothing more, nothing less.
As caregivers, we can play a role in educating our senior on the importance of being counted, on the privacy safeguards in place, on all the ways the 2020 census can be completed, and we can help them complete it.
The Importance of Being Counted
This headcount is critical to our older adults and to us, their caregivers. It’s critical because more than $675 BILLION in federal funding is distributed to states and communities each year based on census data, monies which are needed for the programs that help your loved one.
Community programs through your local Office on Aging that are funded by census data include: caregiver assistance and support programs, respite care, telephone reassurance check-in, transportation, adult protective services, health promotion and disease prevention educational programs, nutrition programs which are comprised of congregate and home delivered meals, legal services, home health aide assistance, light housekeeping assistance and information and referral services.
In New Jersey, funds are allocated to the Medical Assistance Program (Medicaid), Medicare Supplemental Medical Insurance (Part B), Health Care Centers and Low-Income Home Energy Assistance are just a few programs impacted by census data.
In addition, that $675 billion is spent on schools, hospitals, roads and public works. The census data is used by local governments for public safety and emergency preparedness. It is used to support initiatives that involve legislation, quality-of-life and consumer advocacy. It is used to reapportion the House of Representatives and redraw boundaries of congressional and state legislative districts in each state.
We know that privacy is a hot button for our older adults, and it is a valid one. Yours may be reluctant to participate in the census for that very reason. You can help reassure them that privacy is strictly controlled.
The Census Bureau is required by law under Title 13 of the U.S. Code to protect any personal information that is collected and keep it confidential. In other words, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about individuals, households or businesses.
Answers to the census cannot be used for law enforcement purposes or to determine your eligibility for government benefits. Answers cannot be used against you by any government agency, not the FBI or CIA, not the Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The law requires that your information is kept confidential and used to produce statistics – nothing more, nothing less. In fact, in 1982 the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed that even addresses are confidential and cannot be disclosed through legal discovery or the Freedom of Information Act. In 2010, the U.S. Justice Department determined that the Patriot Act does not override the law that protects the confidentiality of individual census responses. Census information is kept confidential for 75 years.
Completing the 2020 Census
For the first time in two hundred and thirty years, the census can be completed online, by phone, by mail or in person. You do not have to wait for someone to knock on your door to complete it.
When it’s time to respond (around March 12-20), you will receive either an invitation encouraging you to respond online or an invitation along with a paper questionnaire. Throughout March and April, you will receive reminders if you have not responded. After April 27, individuals who have not responded will be visited by a Census worker.
When the invitation arrives, you have the option of responding online, by mail or by phone. The online form and telephone line are available in 13 languages including English and through a TTY. When you call, you are given the opportunity to complete the census in one of these languages. But, leave a message and the return call allows you to complete the census in one of 59 different languages.
The census looks at housing units and, through self-reporting, gathers the needed headcount. This translates into your older adult needing to be counted even if they reside in Assisted Living or a Skilled Nursing Facility. The Census considers these types of living arrangements as “Group Quarters” and will have special teams to assist in the counting. The census is not limited to individuals living in a home or apartment.
You will be asked for your phone number, but it will never be shared. You will be asked the following questions:
- The number of people living or staying in a home on April 1, 2020.
- Whether the home is owned with or without a mortgage, rented or occupied without rent.
- A phone number for a person in the home.
- The name, sex, age, date of birth and race of each person in the home.
- Whether each person is of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin.
- The relationship of each person to a central person in the home.
How You Can Help
Calling in to complete the census requires responding to a Voice Response Unit (VRU) and selecting a language. If your older adult has hearing issues or gets frustrated with the VRU, you can get them started or input the information for them.
If your older adult is not comfortable using a computer, you can help them complete the census on this device as well. The same with the mail version. If you are not counted via phone, computer or mail, a person will come to your house, a scenario that you can easily avoid if it makes your senior uncomfortable.
The census counts everyone where they live and sleep most of the time. If your older adult lives with more than one child throughout the year, you can count them where they stayed on Census Day, April 1.
If your older adult is in Assisted Living or a Skilled Nursing Facility, these are considered a housing unit. As such, they are given a unique identifier code and are required to report their headcount to the census. Volunteer to help. They may need additional people to work with residents to answer the census questions for their room in the building.
By far, the most important role we can play as caregivers is to alleviate the fear of our caree in being counted. Help them to understand the privacy safeguards and how getting the numbers right has a direct impact on the services they can access.
The Census Bureau is looking for “trusted voices” partners to hold informational events and to help people fill out the census. If you are a church, book club, social club or eldercare facility, you can host a signing day. As host, you can provide a bank of computers or phones and support personnel to help if anyone runs into trouble.
If you are an agency, please encourage your employees to fill out the census. If they live with their caree 24X7, they can be included in the caree census. However, they must not be counted again under a different address. The goal is to count people once and only once. Care mangers can approach the caree as well and offer to help.
The Census Bureau is offering paid, part-time work. To apply for a part time job: https://2020census.gov/en/jobs.html
With thanks to my collaboration partner, Tahirih Gomez-Smith, Partnership Specialist New York Regional Census Office 2020 Census.gov Tahirih.firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: The material in this blog is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace, nor does it replace, consulting with a physician, lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other qualified professional.