censusThe whole country continues to be focused on COVID-19 and how to safely re-open our communities while protecting our most vulnerable populations. State and local governments are also concentrating on hurricane season and how to address the necessary changes for shelter during the pandemic. There is a lot on our "community plate," so it's no wonder the 2020 Census has taken a back seat.
I am certainly not downplaying the seriousness of these issues but want to make a case for the importance of completing the 2020 Census, especially as it applies to the older adult population. Let's review some facts and dispel myths about completing the 2020 Census.
Information taken from the U.S. Census Website:
- As of 6/16/2020, Sarasota County's self-response rate was at 62%, which is above the Florida self-response rate of 58.7%. Overall, Florida is falling behind the National rate of 61.5%.
- For the first time since 1790, the census will be digitized. Moving to an online presence is projected to save an estimated $5.2 billion.
- Older adults (56%) age 65 and older reported they aren't comfortable with an online response and prefer to fill out a paper census form.
- Census data is used to determine the number of congressional representatives. With an estimated 900 people per day moving to Florida, two additional representatives' seats could be gained.
- Federal financial aid is determined through census data. About one-third of Florida's general revenues come from federal funding ($25.5 billion).
- A population-based funding formula affects the distribution of the Older Americans Act (OAA) dollars. This includes services such as meal programs, in-home services, transportation and health, and wellness funding.
- Census data is used to determine community need for things such as hospitals, roads, parks, schools, transportation, and 911 emergency systems.
- Census data helps health providers predict the spread of disease through communities with children, older adults, or other vulnerable populations. It also helps emergency management know where help might be needed in a natural disaster.
Ok, so now you have a few facts about why the census is so important to our community. Let's talk about next steps and how to alleviate concerns about how to complete the census.
Everyone should have already received the postcard invitation to respond online. Don't worry if you threw it away; those that did not answer should have already received a paper form in the mail. You can complete the paper form and drop it in the mail. If you still have not completed the census, census takers may come and place a paper copy at your residence. Census takers are resuming in-person assistance in some areas but are tentatively scheduled to resume in August 2020. There is always the option to respond by phone at 844-330-2020. Language support is offered. The census timeline has been modified due to COVID-19, and while everyone is encouraged to respond as soon as possible, the deadline is October 31, 2020.
Confidentiality and safety are two important issues that are concerning to older adults. Census takers on the phone or in person will never ask you for your full Social Security number, ask about citizenship status, ask for money, donations, or for bank or credit card numbers. A census taker will have a valid I.D. badge with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce Watermark, and an expiration date. If you have any questions about a census taker's identity, you can call 844-330-2020.
So, now you know. Census data helps communities make decisions about the future, determines federal funding, effects our congressional and state legislative districts, and shapes the future of housing, schools, and business. All these elements are important if we want to thrive and advance the Age-Friendly Sarasota initiative.
Don't be complacent; be a part of designing the community you want by completing the 2020 Census.