By Luna, Honorary Mayor of Eastsound
Before we get to how to reply to the U.S. 2020 Census questionnaire if the Census Bureau failed to send your Census ID #, let’s talk about why it’s important to be counted (even though they don’t count dogs). Census data affects the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding for hospitals, fire departments, school lunch programs, Medicaid, Head Start, community mental health services, SNAP, and dozens of other programs. If San Juan County is undercounted, we’re underfunded. Every human can be counted. They don’t ask for a Social Security Number, whether you’re a US citizen, or where you were born.
OK, now for the easy part, which used to be the hard part. A few weeks ago my family tried to reply online to the Census questionnaire. The first item was to log in using your “12-digit Census ID,” which was in “the materials we mailed to you or left at your door.”
Having received no materials, my grandpa inquired at the Orcas Post Office and was told that hundreds of letters from the Census Bureau had arrived addressed only to “Resident” at people’s physical addresses. But everybody in zip code 98280 gets their mail in a PO Box. Without a name or a box number, it would have taken weeks for our wonderful PO staff to correlate physical addresses with box numbers while also doing their regular work. They returned the letters to the Census Bureau, explaining the need for names and/or box numbers. The letters came back, once again addressed only to “Resident” at physical addresses. We still haven’t received one. Grandpa heard that people who get their mail at PO boxes at the other island post offices encountered similar difficulties.
The Census Bureau put a way around this problem on their website. If you scrolled down, you could find a phone number you could call to get your ID #. Sometimes when my family gets trapped in automated phone response systems, they say things that no dog should have to hear. So I’m glad that by the time they found out about this, a link had been added right next to the login, “If you do not have a Census ID click here.” That quickly takes you to a page where you enter your address, and about five minutes later you’re all done responding to the Census. No phone call needed.
So, if you haven’t yet, please go to 2020census.gov and be counted.