Every ten years, the U.S. government issues a census survey to collect information about the American population. The information that is collected is used for two critical purposes:
1. More than $1.5 trillion in federal funding is distributed to state and local governments based on census counts. This provides much-needed funding for critical environmental and public health programs. A good example of how this plays out: As the climate changes we can expect more natural disasters, like Hurricane Michael, a category 5 storm that tore through south Georgia, costing billions in losses. Federal disaster relief programs played an important role in recovery. With a low census count, we risk not having enough funding to cover incidents like this in the future.
2. The census counts are used to recalculate the number of seats that each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives. With a better sense of the population, the census informs the recalculation of the number of seats that each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives. Georgia’s general assembly will also redraw the districts for state representatives. This determines political representation and if not watched closely, can lead to gerrymandering.
A fair and accurate count is necessary to ensure that resources are distributed equitably, especially for communities of color, low-wealth communities, and immigrant communities — all groups that are disproportionately impacted by climate change and pollution. All people are counted, regardless of whether you are a renter, a homeowner, experiencing homelessness, a citizen or non-citizen. All of the information that is collected is kept strictly confidential. Please make a plan to take the census!
Here are a few helpful milestones to keep in mind:
- January 21: The U.S. Census Bureau starts counting the population in remote Alaska. The count officially begins in the rural Alaskan village of Toksook Bay.
- March 12 – 20: Households will begin receiving official Census Bureau mail with detailed information on how to respond to the 2020 Census online, by phone, or by mail.
- March 30 – April 1: The Census Bureau will count people who are experiencing homelessness over these three days. As part of this process, the Census Bureau counts people in shelters, at soup kitchens and mobile food vans, on the streets, and at non-sheltered, outdoor locations such as tent encampments.
- April 1: Census Day is observed nationwide. By this date, every home will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. Once the invitation arrives, you should respond for your home in one of three ways: online, by phone, or by mail. When you respond to the census, you’ll tell the Census Bureau where you live as of April 1, 2020.
- April: Census takers will begin visiting college students who live on campus, people living in senior centers, and others who live among large groups of people. Census takers also begin conducting quality check interviews to help ensure an accurate count.
- May – July: Census takers will begin visiting homes that haven’t responded to the 2020 Census to help make sure everyone is counted.
- December: The Census Bureau will deliver apportionment counts to the President and Congress as required by law.
- March 31: By this date, the Census Bureau will send redistricting counts to states. This information is used to redraw legislative districts based on population changes.