Census 101: What you need to know

The 2020 U.S. Census will soon be counting residents in the Pine City area and across the nation, and Pine City Administrator Matthew Van Steenwyk wants residents to know that the city is firmly behind the effort.

The census is the national effort to take count of everyone in the United States and record basic information about them. It stems from the need to count residents in an area so as to get an accurate count to assign U.S. Representatives to an area.  

“From a legal standpoint, a legislative standpoint, appropriations and allocations for House seats come through the census,” Van Steenwyk said.

Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, approved in 1789, states:

“The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.”

At the beginning of every decade since that time, the U.S.A has held a census. In 2020, for the first time ever, the U.S. Census Bureau will accept responses online and phone, but residents can still respond by mail if they prefer.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

• The Census Bureau will never ask for a Social Security number, bank or credit card account number, money or donations, or anything on behalf of a political party.

• It is against the law for any Census Bureau employee to disclose or publish any census information that identifies an individual or business. The penalty for wrongful disclosure is a fine of up to $250,000 or imprisonment for up to 5 years, or both.

The Pine City Council created a Complete Count Committee about a year ago to support the census effort.

“That committee’s task is to make sure that we’re ... putting our best foot forward in the census process,”  Van Steenwyk said. “It’s not our place to do the census – it’s the U.S. government. But we’re trying to make people aware that the census is coming.”

He also noted that the census is hiring, with around 250 jobs that pay over $20 per hour during the census period in the Pine County area alone. Those interested may visit their website to apply at 2020census.gov/jobs

Van Steenwyk pointed out that once the city hits a population of 5,000, it will receive more state aid. But though Pine City’s final count will likely be far from that number, the census is still a useful tool for the city.

“Just knowing how many people are here, and then through that process you get more information on ... what is the dynamic or demographics of our community itself and then the surrounding areas,” he said. “From the city’s standpoint, when we’re looking for grants for housing or economic development, having that data shores up our request – to say, ‘Yes, we have people here that have this need.’ The census doesn’t provide all the data, but it is more information we can help provide, to sweeten our request a little bit.

“Either a city is growing or it’s shrinking,” Van Steenwyk added. “Pine City is growing, and us having that knowledge ... is good for selling the community for economic development and expansion.”

The U.S. Census Bureau is recruiting thousands of people across the country to assist with the 2020 Census count.

Visit their website to apply at 2020census.gov/jobs

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