It’s April 2020, you open your mailbox and sort through your mail. Bills, ice cream ads, other sorts of junk… and mixed in with these is an invitation for the 2020 Census. But why is this invitation important? Why shouldn’t it be thrown away?

What is the census?

The Census is a count of all persons residing within the US which takes place every 10 years mandated by the Constitution. Article I section 2 reads: “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers… The actual Enumeration shall be made… within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct.”

The federal government needs a complete count in order to determine how much representation each State gets in the US House of Representatives and how to divide up federal money given to the States (hint: more people = more money).

Why should I participate?

First, having more representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives gives Washington state a stronger voice to advocate for the issues we care for at the federal level. But the issue is also a monetary one. For each person not counted, Washington state loses $19,000 dollars in federal funding. An undercount of the state’s population will jeopardize funding for critical services and political representation.

As an AAPI (Asian American/Pacific Islander) individual, it is especially important for you to participate. Many programs—both government and non-profit—which benefit AAPIs use census data to determine where communities in need are. If your community is undercounted, that community will be allocated less resources in programs such as Medicaid, bilingual education programs and language services for voting assistance.

In fact, your participation is so important that Washington state has invested an additional $15 million dollars (in addition to the money given by the federal government) to ensure a more complete count.

I have some concerns about the census…

No matter whether you are a citizen, legal immigrant or neither, you should still do the census. The 2020 Census will NOT ask for your citizenship status and results are completely confidential for 72 years, so no one (including other government organizations) will be able to find your personal information. To make things more secure, all Census employees swear a lifetime oath to protect data, the penalty if they disclose is up to five years imprisonment and/or a fine of $250,000.

Why is the Census asking for my ethnicity?

Different Asian groups have vastly different communities with different languages, cultures, common medical complications, socioeconomic backgrounds, and more. Thus, it is important for the different groups to be distinguished from one another (this is called disaggregation). This helps many organizations such as those which target specific ethnicities and those which offer language assistance. In general, disaggregation allows organizations to better refine their targeting strategies to better fit the community’s needs.

What if my English isn’t good?

The Census Bureau will be providing language guides in these languages: Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, Japanese, Hindi, Bengali, Thai, Gujarati, Khmer, Nepali, Urdu, Telegu, Burmese, Punjab, Lao, Hmong, Tamil, Malaysian, Indonesian, Ilocan and Marathi.

They will also be providing questionnaires in these languages: Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Korean, Japanese.

How can I participate?

Households should receive an invitation to participate by April 1, 2020. There are three ways to respond: online, by phone and by mail. If you don’t have access to a computer, households will be mailed a paper form between April 8-16. If you do not have a house, you should check in with a local community center to ask for assistance — we still need you to participate! The Census closes at the end of July, so make sure to respond before then. If you have any questions, please contact the Regional Census Center at 213-314-6500 or email [email protected].

It is essential that everyone who resides in America is counted in the U.S., so please participate and encourage others you know to participate as well.

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