2020 census letter

A 2020 census letter mailed to a Pennsylvania resident.

— AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Imagine that $21,000 was left on your doorstep — but you didn’t bother to pick it up, and it got sent to a wealthy community that didn’t need it.

Now, stop imagining.

Because that’s basically what is happening with the Trump administration ending the U.S. Census a month early — $21,000 per person that should be coming back to Philadelphia for vital services like housing, schools, transit and health care over the next 10 years will go to other places instead. As of Aug. 27, almost half of Philadelphia’s residents had not been counted. The problem is especially bad in historically undercounted neighborhoods of North and West Philadelphia.

This undercount adds up to about $15 billion: $15,000,000,000. This is a huge amount of money that could address serious Philadelphia problems like hospitals closing, a shortage of affordable housing, and schools with asbestos, lead or mold.

A census undercount might send your federal tax dollars to Florida, to repave a road leading to Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago club. Or your money might go to Texas, to fix a highway leading to the Dallas Cowboys stadium. But if we have a census undercount, the one place your money won’t go is Philadelphia!

In a city with a poverty rate above 24%, we couldn’t afford a 10-year loss like that, even before the coronavirus pandemic. Now that the pandemic and resulting recession are here, we really can’t afford to leave any of this funding on the table — we’ll need it to help recovery efforts in Philadelphia.

Now, here’s the good news — you, your family and neighbors still have time to stop this injustice from happening. All you have to do is take 5 to 10 minutes and visit 2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020. The deadline is Sept. 30, but don’t wait. Filling it out now is safer during the pandemic, because otherwise the Census Bureau has to send someone to knock at your door to try to ask the 10 questions.

It’s important to note that the census is private. The census is supposed to count everyone living in Philadelphia, including undocumented immigrants, so that city, state and federal governments know how many people need services.

The information you provide as part of the census can never be used against you. It’s the law. Under Title 13 of the U.S. Code, the U.S. Census Bureau cannot release any information about you or others in your household. Your census answers can only be used to produce statistics.

In fact, census employees and contractors are sworn for life to always protect your information. Violators face fines up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison.

It’s also important to protect yourself from scams. The 2020 census will collect basic information about the people living in your household. Do not respond if you are asked for your Social Security number (SSN), bank or credit card information, your mother’s maiden name, money or donations, or anything on behalf of a political party. The U.S. Census Bureau will never ask for this information. If someone claiming to be from the U.S. Census Bureau contacts you via email, phone or in person and asks for any of this information, it is a scam.

• If you receive a survey or letter in the mail, check that the return address is in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

• If you receive a phone call, you can call the U.S. Census Bureau at 800-923-8282 to verify whether the caller is an employee.

• If you receive an email or are sent a URL to respond to the census, make sure the website address begins with “HTTPS” and includes a lock symbol. If you receive a suspicious email or URL link, do not reply, click links, or open attachments. Forward the email to the U.S. Census Bureau at ois.fraud.reporting@census.gov and then delete it. The U.S. Census Bureau will investigate and report their findings to you.

• If you’re visited by a census worker, ask to see their identification. They should have an official identification badge with their photo, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark and an expiration date. If you have questions about their identity, you can call 800-923-8282 to speak with a local U.S. Census Bureau representative.

So now you know how private the census is and how important it is to our community. And if you’ve already filled out the census, thank you! If you want to do more, Philly Counts, the city’s census outreach office, has ways you can help:

• Become a phone banker: Visit https://bit.ly/COVIDPhoneBank to get started.

• Let Philly Counts know if there are community events where they can share information — they have technology to enable people to complete the census on the spot.

• Talk to five people about the census and why it’s important.

You can reach Philly Counts at census@phila.gov or 267-582-8234.

To learn more, you can also visit www.phila.gov/programs/philly-counts-2020/

Together, we can make sure Philadelphians count and that we get the federal funding we deserve for housing, schools, transit and health care. And the best part is that once you’ve completed the census, you won’t need to do it again for another 10 years. So please take those 5 to 10 minutes and beat the Trump administration’s deadline before it’s too late.

U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans represents the 3rd Congressional District, which includes Northwest and West Philadelphia and parts of North, South, Southwest and Center City Philadelphia.

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