You have the opportunity this year to impact governmental leadership and federal funding for programs in Florida, but it has nothing to do with political beliefs, parties or the election in November. Instead you’ll be answering a few questions by April 1 to complete the 2020 census.
The census is a count of every person living in the nation’s 50 states, District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.
As of March 21, 16.7 percent of households across the nation have responded to the 2020 census survey, so it’s crucial that you respond if you have not already.
Why Your Response Matters
Even during the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to prioritize completing the census survey.
“I know we all have a great deal going on, but at some point life will resume and decisions will be made based on census data that was collected even during this time of crisis,” says Stephen Masyada, interim executive director at UCF’s Lou Frey Institute. “It’s important these decisions are made based on accurate information, so we need to make sure that we get those census forms completed.”
“At some point life will resume and decisions will be made based on census data that was collected even during this time of crisis,” says Stephen Masyada, interim executive director at UCF’s Lou Frey Institute.
As a constitutional requirement, the U.S. Census Bureau has conducted a population count every 10 years since 1790 to determine how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives. In 2010, census data indicated 18.8 million people resided in Florida, which was a 2.8 million population increase from the previous census.
“In 2010, our growth here in the state of Florida caused us to gain two seats in the House and that’s really important because that is how we affect legislation,” says Channa Lloyd, a U.S. Census partnership specialist.
This year, the City of Orlando projects that Florida may gain one more seat. Regardless, census responses will be used to redistrict each state in the nation. There are 435 congressional districts in the United States, with one member in the House elected from each to represent their interests. Each district must represent the same number of people, so while smaller-population states such as Alaska have one representative, larger states have more, such as Florida with 27. This will change after the 2020 census.
“It’s so very important people complete this information because it really does dictate the direction of the country politically, economically and socially in many ways,” Masyada says. “If you don’t respond there are significant consequences. It impacts our ability to influence our leaders, get legislation we think is important and improve our communities. If we don’t take part in the census, our voice on issues simply cannot be as loud and as strong.”
The U.S. government also uses the census results to determine how to split up trillions of dollars in federal funds over the next decade. These funds support 144 federal programs including, the Pell Grant, emergency response, medical aid, housing assistance and school lunch.
In 2015, George Washington University conducted a study that found each person who did not complete the 2010 census in Florida cost the state $1,455 in federal funding.
Florida was allocated federal funding of $4 trillion — $400 billion each year — in the decade following the 2010 census. The Sunshine State is estimated to potentially receive $7 trillion, or $675 billion each year, for the next decade after the 2020 census.
What Will be Collected and What Campus Residents Should Know
Since its beginning the main question of the census survey has been, “How many people live in your household as of April 1?”, also known as Census Day. The same is true for the 2020 census, but due to necessary precautions and responses to the Coronavirus outbreak some adjustments have been made to this question.
UCF has moved to remote instruction through the spring and summer A, C and D semesters to reduce the to minimize health and safety risks from COVID-19 to the UCF community. During this time, the university has requested students return to their permanent residences, unless they are unable to do so due to extenuating circumstances.
The university will complete the census 2020 count for students who typically live on campus, even if they are not living in UCF Housing on April 1.
The university will complete the census 2020 count for students who typically live on campus, even if they are not living in UCF Housing on April 1. An administrator at the university will electronically submit a response for each student who resides on the main, downtown and Rosen campuses. This means students who have been or currently are living in UCF Housing during the Spring 2020 semester do not need to take action to complete the census survey and their parents should not include them in on their census forms.
The information UCF will submit is directory information authorized under FERPA guidelines, which typically is not considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. This information includes name, address, telephone listing, date of birth, and dates of attendance.
The census also asks questions covering basic information, such as the age of the person who owns your home or pays the rent for your apartment and the type of dwelling you reside in. This additional information is used for data purposes, such as gathering statistics on homeowner demographics.
In December, the data collected by the Census Bureau will be shared with other government offices to determine redistricting across the nation. Any information that could identify respondents is secure for 72 years and can never be used in court, regardless of immigration or criminal status, according to law. You will never be asked to share your social security number or pay for a census survey, so be cautious of anyone imitating census takers and asking for confidential information.
What to Do if You Live Off Campus
By March 20 you should have receive a mail notice from the Census Bureau indicating your options for response. Census 2020 marks the first time you can respond to the survey online, but you can also respond by phone or mail.
Parents should not count their college students on their census form if they typically live on campus or at an off-campus residence throughout most of the year.
“The online census form is easy to complete, and you can do it from the comfort of your own home. Make it a part of your social distancing objectives: complete the census and make myself count – literally,” Masyada says.
By April 1 you should submit your responses to the survey, with one survey completed per household. When you respond you must tell the Census Bureau where you live on April 1. Parents should not count their college students on their census form if they typically live on campus or at an off-campus residence throughout most of the year.