Make yourself count during this U.S. Census

By Barb Tolbert

You count. Let’s get you counted.

The Census is a self-portrait of the nation, counting everyone living in the country once in a decade. The Constitution mandates the Census, and it is our duty to complete the survey and be counted.

The 2020 Census team has been working to promote, educate and finally collect information from communities across the U.S. The data collected is used to distribute billions of federal funds to local communities and determines the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. Washington state received an additional House seat as a result of the 2010 Census.

The federal funds that are distributed are used for funding services for people in poverty, designing public safety strategies, assessing the potential for spread of communicable disease, planning for school projects, determining areas eligible for housing assistance and much more. For every 100 households missed, Washington could lose $5.8 million over a 10-year period.

The confidential Census survey is just 10 simple questions about you and who is living with you. You will receive a postcard notification in the mail between March 12-20 requesting you to respond online at the Census website. This new format is being used to conserve natural resources and taxpayer money, and to make the process more efficient (other ways to respond will be explained in the postcard). You are being asked to reply by April 1.

The Arlington Library and the city of Arlington have computers available for you to complete the survey online from March 23-April 8. Stop by the Arlington Police Station, the Public Works Office by Haller Park or the Airport Office to use their computers.

There is also a Questionnaire Assistance Event March 28 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in the City Council Chambers at 110 E. Third St. Census staff will walk you through the questionnaire and provide support, including assistance for those who speak Spanish.

I hope you will complete the Census. Snohomish County historically has a low return rate, due to many factors, including rural areas, people who distrust the government, and other socioeconomic and demographic factors. Children are the most undercounted population.

Strong confidentiality protections are in place to protect the information provided. The individual information cannot be disclosed for 72 years and Census staff swear an oath for life. There is a website to address myths about the Census:

Please help spread the word that avoiding the questionnaire is not helpful to the community. In Snohomish County, the distribution of the federal funds amounts to about $2,000 per person each year for the 10 years in-between counts.

The U.S. Census team will be following up with those who do not reply, by sending reminders, and then paper surveys in the mail, followed by Census employees visiting residents from May through July.

Barb Tolbert is mayor of Arlington, which has a monthly column in this newspaper.