2020 Census: 5 Things to Know

Sketches of diverse individuals surround the text, "Pledge to Take the Census." © Voto Latino
Make sure your community counts. And is counted.

Get your noisemakers ready — the 2020 Census is heading your way. (Cue cheers and applause.)

I know what you’re thinking: great, another form to fill out. Like you, I wasn’t very excited, either — until I sat down with Nancy Wolanski, director of the Grantmakers Council of Rhode Island (GCRI).

In addition to serving as GCRI’s director, Nancy sits on the Rhode Island Complete Count Committee, convened by Governor Gina Raimondo to increase awareness about the 2020 Census and motivate Rhode Islanders to participate.

Nancy shared a wealth of facts and figures with me; but, here are just five things you need to know to be a census pro.

1. For the first time, you can complete the census online.

By April 1, 2020, National Census Day, your household will receive an invitation to participate in the census. You’ll have three options for responding: online, by mail, or by phone.

Questions? Call the national bilingual census hotline — 877-EL-CENSO (877-352-3676). After the welcome message plays, press 1 to speak with someone in English or 2 to speak with someone in Spanish.

2. Your participation directly impacts the resources your community will receive over the next 10 years.

Every year, census data is used to determine more than $3 billion of federal funding for Rhode Island. (The total state budget is about $9 billion.) For each person counted, RI receives approximately $1,800 per year; this means a family of four who completes the census next year will secure $72,000 for our state and neighbors between 2020 and 2030.

What does this funding support? Actually, a lot:

  • Childcare
  • Children’s health insurance
  • Community health centers
  • Energy assistance
  • Food stamps
  • Foster care
  • Head Start
  • Highways and roads
  • Medicare and Medicaid
  • Public transportation
  • School lunches
  • Special education
  • Section 8 housing

The list goes on — and philanthropy can’t make up the difference.

An accurate count will enable Rhode Island to care for our most vulnerable communities. By completing the census, you’re helping ensure that your friends, neighbors, and family members have continued access to vital resources.

3. If you belong to an undercounted community, completing the census is especially important.

Historically, the census has missed disproportionate numbers of immigrants, low-income households, people of color, and young children, in both urban and rural areas. These are known as Hard to Count (HTC) populations.

According to new projections from The Urban Institute, more than 4 million people nationwide could be missing from the 2020 Census. This could lead to the worst undercount of black and Latinx people in the U.S. since 1990.

In Rhode Island, 24% of residents live in HTC areas. Along with the groups mentioned above, the following communities are also considered Hard to Count:

  • College students
  • Elderly individuals
  • Ex-offenders
  • Homeless persons
  • LGBTQ+ individuals
  • People with disabilities
  • Renters
  • Single parent households
  • Those living in mobile homes or multi-unit residences
  • Those with limited English proficiency

Do you belong to a Hard to Count community, or know someone who does? Throw a party and complete the census together. Food and friends make filling out forms fun.

4. Even if you filled out a census form last year, you still need to participate in 2020.

If you lived in Providence County in 2018, you may remember receiving an invitation to complete the census. That mailing was part of a test to ensure that all systems would be ready for 2020.

Because there wasn’t funding to advertise this, residents who responded in 2018 might think that they don’t have to fill out the census again. However, test responses won’t be included in the official count. It’s crucial for all Rhode Islanders, even those who participated in 2018, to respond in 2020.

5. Looking for a job? Work for the census.

The Census Bureau is hiring for a variety of temporary positions, including census takers, recruiting assistants, office staff, and supervisory staff. Visit the Bureau’s 2020 Census Jobs page to apply. If your application is chosen, the Census Bureau will contact you when local openings are available.

Technical questions? Call 1-855-JOB-2020 (1-855-562-2020) and select option 1. Other questions? Select option 3; when prompted, enter your ZIP code to be connected to your local census office.

We’re counting on you.

That’s it — you now know five more things about the census than you did five minutes ago. Fill it out, spread the word, and help us achieve our goal of making sure that every Rhode Islander counts, and is counted, in 2020.

Ready to learn more? Check out these resources. Want to contribute? Give to the Rhode Island Census 2020 Fund. Other questions? Contact Nancy Wolanski.


By: Alicia Schubert, Communications Coordinator