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You Have Until Sept. 30 to Fill Out the Census

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Filling out the census took me less time than writing this article did. (Yes, I timed myself.) In fact, filling out the census will probably take less time than reading this article about filling out the census will, so why don’t you head over to the Census form instead?

Still here? That’s fair. If you’re unsure why everyone needs to complete the census, keep in mind that it’s been ten years since we’ve last collected data in this way. I can barely remember what happened in January of this year, let alone in 2010. Was Blockbuster still a thing? Did I have a smartphone? Was I happy?

Those questions don’t matter. But this next one does: Do you like money? Because census data determines where $675 billion of federal funding goes. By getting an accurate count of how many people are living in certain areas, the government will be able to better allocate funding towards our roads, schools, and social programs — like the Disabled Veterans’ Outreach Program (which provides job opportunities and training for veterans) or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (provides grants for food, for health care referrals, and for nutrition education).

Photo courtesy of the Census Bureau.

“Those funds will create services, programs, and resources across the board,” Del Seymour, founder of Code Tenderloin, said in a press release. “We fill out the Census because we all yearn for a better community.”

Additionally, emergency responders rely on census data for a lot of their work. In natural disasters — like wildfires and earthquakes — to tell rescuers how many people need help evacuating and where to plan distribution points. In a pandemic, Census Bureau data helps “identify counties with large at-risk populations such as the elderly.”

Here’s another important question: Do you like democracy? Population counts derived from census data decides how many representatives each state gets in Congress. 

Okay, but I don’t want to give out my personal info.

That’s absolutely understandable, and we’ve got great news! The census only asks for basic information, like your home address, names, and ages of your household members. You can even check out what questions they’ll ask before you complete the form itself. There is no citizenship question, and you don’t have to have a street address to fill out the questions. Moreover, the census is legally required to keep your data confidential.

It will not ask for social security numbers or bank account numbers. If you are filling out a form that asks for your social security number… that is not the census. Exit that window immediately!

Currently, 65.6 percent of San Francisco has responded to the census — about three points lower compared to the last time the census was taken in 2010. Statewide, 68.6 percent of households in California have responded to the census. These are 10.4 million households that will play a part in determining how states get representation in Congress, how community organizations get federal funding, and how emergency responders deal with disaster scenarios for the next decade.

You can join them by filling out the Census by mail, by phone (there are multiple languages available), or online. In San Francisco, as part of the city’s Census Week of Action, you can get on-site assistance at the following locations:

Thursday, Sept. 24
11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Civic Center Plaza, McAllister & Larkin Streets

Friday, Sept. 25
1 p.m.-3:30 p.m.
Portsmouth Square, Kearny & Clay Streets

Saturday, Sept. 26
11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Mendell Plaza, 1401 Mendell St.

Sunday, Sept. 27
11 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Garfield Square, 3100 26th St.

Here’s the online form one more time, for good measure: 2020census.gov

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Grace Z. Li

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