Q&A with Jeff Behler, U.S. Census Bureau
Has your family filled out the 2020 Census?
Family Times recently talked to Jeff Behler, the director for the U.S. Census Bureau’s New York region, about how to fill out the Census, what information it asks for and why it is so important.
This interview was edited for clarity.
- When is the deadline to respond to the Census?
The deadline for self-response, as well as our Census takers knocking on doors, is September 30. Every household will have the ability to go online, to call it in over the phone, or if they still have that paper questionnaire, to fill it out and mail it back in all the way until September 30.
- Why is it important for families to complete it? What is done with the information?
There are two categories we look at when we talk about the importance. First is representation in every level of government. The number of seats that New York has in the next Congressional delegation will be based on the 2020 Census. That’s representation. That’s fighting for you in Washington D.C. New York will use the 2020 Census data for their redistricting purposes, for drawing their voting precincts and school districts. Local governments will use this data to determine their council member districts. We know businesses use this data throughout the decade to determine where they want to grow. They want to go places where they’re going to have a customer base for whatever it is they create, supply or provide to the community, and they want to know they have the ability to hire employees. Business are always using our data. That’s one set. The other set really boils down to federal funding. This really hits home with a lot of families. When we talk about the hundreds of billions of dollars of federal funding that comes to states and communities, that is based upon formulas that use Census data. These are programs like Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, WIC; all come from formulas that use Census data. When we look at our infrastructure, the funding that comes into local communities to fix the roads, the bridges, the tunnels; all that comes from formulas that use Census data. The number of parks in communities and the upkeep of those parks are based upon Census data. When we look at education for our children, from national school lunch and breakfast programs to grants for supplies to Head Start to programs for college students, again all that comes from formulas that use Census data. The last subgroup I’ll mention is healthcare. With COVID-19 and the strain we’ve seen on our local healthcare systems, I can’t think of a better way to support them than by filling out your Census. Money for hospitals, for beds within those hospitals, supplies for police and fire stations to ambulances, all of that funding comes from the federal government and formulas that use Census data.
- What impact, if any, has COVID-19 had on the Census?
We completely changed our schedule. As an example, data collection was supposed to end at the end of July. We started mid-March as we were planning to, but due to COVID-19 and the inability to do some of the in-field operations we had to do, we pushed that schedule out until September 30. Knocking on doors, for example, should have started May 13. It just wasn’t safe to do so. We shifted that date in most places to right around August 9, but we do have some areas in Upstate New York that started a bit little earlier. It’s just the schedule change. What has been great about this Census is that there are more methods for households to self-respond. In 2010, you could only respond via paper. You got mailed the questionnaire, you filled it out and mailed it back in. We added online, 2020census.gov, and it’s formatted for smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops, as well as a list of 13 toll-free telephone numbers, one for each language that we support. You can call and provide your information over the phone.
- How long does it typically take to complete the Census? What kind of information does it ask for?
Very basic information. We hear anywhere from 5-10 minutes. It depends on the size of your family. We are going to ask for your name and your phone number for the household in case there’s any quality issues. We’re going to ask for the age and date of birth for every member of your household. We’re going to ask for the race and ethnicity for every member of the household. We’re going to ask for the sex of every member of the household. We’re also going to ask if the home is owned or rented. And then finally we ask for a relationship for each person, their relationship to whoever you list first on the form; mother, father, son, daughter, married partner, unmarried partner, same sex married partner, same sex unmarried partner. It’s important to note what we don’t ask for in 2020. We do not ask for citizenship status. We do not ask for social security numbers. We do not ask for bank account or credit card information. We never ask for money and we never ask for anything on behalf of a political party. If people are hearing questions like that tied to the Census, it’s a scam. They should close their door, they should not fill it out and they can reach out to us directly at our regional office. The number to call is (212) 882-7100. We can do employment verification, so if there is someone knocking on your door and you want to validate that this person works for the Census, we can verify that. We can also address any questions and concerns you may have regarding Census takers or just how to fill out the form.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
A lot of people don’t realize there is a federal law out there that basically prohibits the Census Bureau from releasing information about a person or a household. When we release our data, it’s at a county level, a city level, a state level, a Census track level. It can never be at a person or household level. Local, state and federal law enforcement can’t do it, local housing authorities, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), no one can access our data at any time for any reason. We have been taken to federal court numerous times over the last seven decades since Title 13 became law, and we have won every time. There has never been a breach of Title 13. The other thing I’ll mention is as we have Census takers out there knocking on doors now, it’s the other way you have to complete your Census. It’s the same questions we would be asking online, and it takes about 5-10 minutes. If you’re not home, we’re going to leave you a notice letting you know we stopped by and will be back in a few days, or if you want, you can go online today. Here’s the website, here’s your Census ID, here’s the toll-free telephone number you can call if you want to provide your information over the phone.
David’s Refuge to Hold Virtual Taste with a Twist
Photos of last year’s event provided by David’s Refuge
This year’s Taste of David’s Refuge is going virtual. Taste with a Twist will be held from 5-7 p.m. on Sept. 11, and will be available on several Cumulus Media stations, including 93Q, 95X and The Score. During the event, listeners can learn more about David’s Refuge and the families it serves, and bid on auction items. The proceeds will benefit the organization’s services – respite weekends, special events and more.
“Cancelling our event simply wasn’t an option. The parents we serve show up every day and night for their exceptional kids – and through David’s Refuge – we will all continue to show up for them,” said Christine Corbett, Director of Philanthropy. “Caregivers need our love and support now more than ever. This year’s Taste of David’s Refuge may look a bit different, but will accomplish so much for our families. There’s so much work to be done.”
For more information about Taste with a Twist and David’s Refuge, visit DavidsRefuge.org.
Colorscape Named to List of Best Arts and Crafts Festivals
Colorscape will be held virtually this year from September 12-13, and will feature music performances, art and cooking tutorials and more. Products will also be available for purchase.
For more information, visit colorscape.org.