So you’ve had that census form sitting in your mail/receipt/takeout menu pile for a couple of weeks now and — oh shit, it’s already over a month since April 1st, Census Day. Are you just fucked? Do you no longer exist? Has some lady named Carol at the Census Bureau put your Social Security info through a paper shredder?
Actually, you still have plenty of time to do it. In fact, you can even do it online, like, right now.
April 1st isn’t actually a deadline. Instead, it’s a marker date. When you complete the census, you’re explaining your household situation as of that day. Basically, the census gives a picture of what the American population looked like as of April 1, 2020. It’s your date of reference for completing the form, in the event your living situation has fluctuated over the last few months.
You can still turn in that form you received, and you have the option of doing it online or by phone, instead. I personally didn’t receive a census form (which seems… questionable), but I was still able to go onto the site and access the survey. Online or by phone, you’ll be asked for the census code printed on the mail version. However, if you didn’t receive that, you can also input your street address and name. You aren’t required to use your full legal name, and the information cannot be used against you by law enforcement. There also aren’t any questions regarding citizenship.
In the event you don’t want to fill out the census, you are technically required to, and you will likely later be approached by actual census takers, whose job is to tally up those extra people who haven’t completed the form. This will happen between May 27th and August 14th. As in, they’re going to come knocking on doors. While it’s not clear yet how this is going to be conducted amidst COVID-19, if you want to avoid speaking to an actual person, it’s a good idea to complete the form ahead of time.
Official tallies will be made in December, which will go toward redrawing legislative districts based on population changes. This is why it’s important to actually submit the census: Government money is distributed according to population numbers. So, if the government thinks you don’t actually live where you do, less money will be allocated to your area for things like parks, public transit, road repairs or any of the other general niceties you’re already paying taxes toward. Even if you yourself don’t take advantage of public services, your contribution to the population count can impact how many funds are allocated to special-needs programs for students, school lunches and protections against child abuse.
So look at completing the census as literally a means of fighting child abuse.
Yeah, you go fill it out now.