By Angie Georgeff
I can’t help it. Every day I check the website that tracks coronavirus cases in Tennessee for the 2 p.m. (Central Time) update. Those numbers are not always encouraging, so I’m happy there is another website that brings us better news. It tracks response rates to the 2020 census by state and county.
Rates vary from day to day, but Unicoi County has one of the higher percentages in the state of Tennessee. In this case, higher is better. In order for us to receive our fair share of representation and federal funds, we need to make sure every person in Unicoi County is counted. The statistics generated by the census help the federal government allocate funds to local communities for schools, roads and other public services—like libraries.
The U.S. Constitution provides for this decennial census, which has been conducted every 10 years since 1790. Our response is required by law and is completely confidential. Title 13 of the U.S. Code protects our privacy and ensures that our answers cannot be used against us by any court or government agency. The invitation that was delivered last month to every address in the nation requested a response by April 1, but it is not too late for you to be counted.
If you don’t respond to your invitation after a number of reminders, a census worker will have to come to your residence to get your information. It is that important. Responding online helps conserve natural resources and saves taxpayer money, so of course it is the preferred method. To begin, go to my2020census.gov and enter your 12-digit Census ID. You will find it printed below the barcode on the front of the questionnaire you received.
I responded online in less than five minutes, but you may reply by mail, if you would prefer. Simply complete the questionnaire and mail it back in the envelope provided. Just make sure the barcode is visible through the window. There are nine questions for Person 1 and up to seven for each additional person living or staying at the address. Unless you have forgotten your spouse’s or child’s birthday, they are very simple questions. If you need any help completing the questionnaire, however, there is a toll-free number you may call for assistance.
You also have the option to respond to the census by phone. Call 844-330-2020 for English or 844-468-2020 for Spanish. These lines are available every day from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Additional lines are available for a number of other languages. Online guides are available in large print, braille and American Sign Language. We all count, but we must respond in order to be counted.