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It’s That Time Again… Remember The Census?

censusPSA: Ten years have passed, and it’s U.S. Census time again. At Tuesday’s Village Board of Trustees meeting, a representative from the Westchester County Department of Planning discussed the importance of participating in the census; the questionnaire will be sent to all U.S. households from mid-March through April 1.

Mandated by the U.S. government, the census has been conducted every decade since 1790, and is used to compile very general population and demographic data across the country. In turn, the data is used to determine New York State’s representation in Congress, local electoral districting, and distribution of $880 billion in federal funds to local municipalities like Scarsdale.

“An accurate count of Scarsdale residents is critical to maintaining representation at the local, state, and federal levels; it’s also the basis for awarding public funds for a variety of projects, and to a variety of agencies, including local libraries… roads and infrastructure, as well as education, and certain health care support,” said Scarsdale Village Manager Steve Pappalardo.

To prepare for the census, Scarsdale staff verified the addresses of all households in the village to help ensure an accurate count.

William Brady, chief planner for Westchester County, then began his presentation, stressing that the census determines distribution of a vast amount of funds across 26 federal agencies. He explained that this year’s form contains just nine questions covering housing units and vacancy; age, sex, and relationship of individuals in a given household; race/Hispanic origin; and whether you own or rent.

When responding to the census, you’ll tell the Census Bureau your primary residence as of April 1 and include everyone in your home on that date. The census does not ask for Social Security or tax ID numbers, passwords, political affiliations, financial information, or citizenship status. In addition, all responses are confidential. “Confidentiality is a big concern these days… We want to reiterate that it’s confidential… Everyone at the bureau is sworn to protect your information under penalty of imprisonment and fines… Your responses (also) cannot be used in court or by any government agency, and cannot be used to deny you government benefits.”

Brady then discussed the difference between the census and the more extensive American Community Survey, which is an ongoing, much more detailed questionnaire sent to a small sample of the population every month. It is possible for some Scarsdale residents to receive both the census and the survey at the same time; both are important and both should be completed.

It’s important for all Scarsdale residents to participate. Considering our large immigrant population, many members of the public may be unfamiliar with the census or its purpose.

The Census Bureau estimates that every person not counted equals a loss of approximately $2,500 per year to local municipalities. So, if 400 current Scarsdale residents aren’t counted in this year’s census, the village will lose roughly $1 million in funding every year during the next 10 years.

This time around, you’ll be able to easily complete the census online, via mail or via phone. About 80 percent of households will receive an invitation with a PIN number to submit responses online, and paper census forms will be mailed to the remaining 20 percent – households with low internet access and/or less likely to use the digital form (e.g., older-adult populations). Paper questionnaires also will be sent to anyone who hasn’t responded to the online invitation.

Another point of interest to Scarsdale residents for whom English is a second language is that respondents will be able to provide information in 59 non-English languages. The bureau has provided information for all 59, as well as American Sign Language, braille, and large print via 2020census.gov. Census information also will be available through the United Way (call 211), Westchester County libraries, and local community and senior centers.

To ensure that all households are included, the bureau will send census takers to residents who who do not complete the questionnaire online, or via mail or phone. The census takers will work between 9:00 am and 9:00 pm; will wear an ID badge that bears a name, photo, and U.S. Department of Commerce watermark; will carry a Census logo bag, and will provide a letter on U.S. Census Bureau letterhead. They also never will ask you for identification or to enter your home. For more information, visit 2020census.gov.

Help Wanted

Brady also mentioned that the bureau is currently recruiting individuals to fill hundreds of field and office positions to assist with the census count. Census jobs offers= a pay range of $20 to $23 per hour in Westchester County, and may be interesting options for college students on summer break or senior citizens looking to serve their community. Visit 2020census.gov/en/jobs for details.

Facts and Figures

At the time of the 1790 census, the combined population of the country’s largest cities was 109,826 – New York City (33,131); Philadelphia (28,522); Boston (18,320); Charleston, SC (16,359); and Baltimore (13,503). The total U.S. population was counted at 3,929,214.

Fast forward to 2020, when the attendance capacity at the largest U.S. college football stadium is 107,601 (Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, MI). Current estimates put the U.S. population at nearly 330 million.

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