Today everyone seems to be looking for a great unifier and equalizer.

In response, the airways are filled with politicians declaring that he or she will unite the country and extend equality to all persons, regardless of ethnicity, religion, age, or gender.

Well, we are here to declare that we have found the true great unifier and equalizer. It is the 2020 U.S. Decennial Census.

Just think about it. Every single person in the country is wanted and invited to participate in the census. And, everyone living in the United States between March 12 and July 31, 2020, is counted equally: once. No person is more or less important to the census. Everyone is on level footing.

And, lest anyone think that the U.S. Census Bureau isn’t serious about inclusion, consider that it is spending $500 million on a multimedia campaign to let all residents know they are wanted and invited. This immense campaign is designed to expose everyone with information about the census an average of 40 times.

Extensive measures are being taken to make responding to the census as effortless as possible. Besides paper census forms, which need to be mailed in, the 2020 census form will also be available online and by phone. Language barriers, which could cause major problems to high response percentages, are greatly diminished with the online and phone forms available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian, Arabic, Tagalog, Polish, French, Haitian Creole, Portuguese and Japanese. And even though these 13 languages cover the language spoken in over 99 percent of all U.S. households, the census bureau will also provide video language guides, print language guides and language glossaries in 59 non-English languages, including American Sign Language and Braille.

A personal plea for participation from the highest bureau office is being delivered all over the country. Wherever Census Bureau Director Dr. Steven Dillingham speaks these days, he fervently urges people to respond and then adds, “And, if we don’t hear from you, you’re going to hear from us . . . We’re going to come knock on your door.”  

Dillingham should be taken seriously since census workers showing up in person is part of the plan to get an accurate count. It won’t happen until the census bureau exhausts every other mode of communication, but make no mistake, if you don’t respond someone will come to you.

Census officials are working hard to get as accurate a count as possible for some very good reasons. Hundreds of billions in funding for such things as school lunches, hospitals, roads, housing, elder programs and services, and much more, are at stake. An accurate count will insure that federal funding for services and programs, administered by state, county and local governments, are distributed equally, usually according to population. An inaccurate count could result in states losing valuable funds to serve the needs of its population.

Similar consequences apply to Minnesota, where it is possible that the state could lose one congressional district. A totally accurate count could elevate the state’s population enough to keep its eight seats.

Confidentiality has been identified as the major reason people say they may not participate in the census. Alleviating this concern, the bureau’s media campaign emphasizes that law strictly prohibits the release of personal information collected through the census.

Every census bureau employee takes an oath of confidentiality for life. Any breach is punishable by a $250,000 fine and/or imprisonment of five years. Also, the law prohibits the Census Bureau from releasing identifiable information about respondents to anyone, even to law enforcement agencies. Answers to census questions cannot be used by any government agency or court.

The door to participating in the 2020 census is wide open. Everyone should feel invited and needed.

So, watch for the census materials coming soon to your mailbox and then respond.

Let the count begin.

An opinion of the Adams Publishing-ECM Editorial Board. The Forest Lake Times is an APG-ECM newspaper. Reactions welcome at editorial.board@ecm-inc.com.

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