Written By: Mayor John Haila
Filling out my 2020 Census form will be a simple task. This isn’t my first time completing a census. Yet, I’m aware that a large percentage of our Ames population may not be familiar with this once-a-decade responsibility. Many Iowa State University students would have been in grade school the last time we had a census. Some may not realize they are responsible for completing a form.
U.S. Census Bureau officials cite multiple barriers to getting census forms returned, and undercounting a community’s population can have serious consequences. Ames residents have long history of high participation in the census, but it takes a lot people working together to educate our entire community especially reaching out to those at risk to not participate.
ISU students may believe their parents will count them in their hometowns. Yet census rules are very clear that university students should claim the city they attend school. International students, their spouses and families, as well as non-citizens may believe the census doesn’t apply to them. Not true. They are Ames residents for the purpose of the census.
Completing the census is important because census numbers are used to determine political representation and spur redistricting of wards for local elections. Also, census numbers are used to proportionally distribute more than $675 billion annually in federal funds. This money supports state, county, and city programs including housing, education, transportation, public safety, and health care. In Ames, our CyRide transit system, affordable housing projects, and street improvements all receive significant federal funding based on our census numbers.
Some people have a deep distrust of government. Others don’t believe the information they share will be kept safe. We have work to do ensure everyone understands the facts about the census and the role of U.S. Census Bureau.
Census information is confidential. By federal law, it may not be shared with any other federal agency, nor do state or local governments have access to individual census forms. The census asks a series of simple questions including your name, birthdate, and gender. It asks for a phone number for verification purposes only. It does not ask for Social Security numbers, bank, or credit card information. Once the 2020 Census is complete, aggregated data (absent personal information) is available on the U.S. Census Bureau website for anyone to access.
Your invitation to participate may have already arrived in the mail. Once received, please take a few minutes to answer the questions online, by phone, or by mail. The census form is available in multiple languages.
One last request. Please use your influence as a trusted voice to share census information with those you socialize, work, or interact with every day. The message is simple. Census is safe, easy, and important. We need everyone’s help to ensure Ames has a complete and accurate count. Spread the word so Ames has the funding and representation we deserve.
If you have more questions about the 2020 Census, visit www.2020Census.gov