Editorial: Fill out the 2020 census

The Detroit News

Between washing hands, staying six feet away from neighbors and trying not to rub noses, Michigan residents who have not yet completed the 2020 census should take five minutes and fill it out. With most Michiganians shut up indoors until at least April 13, chances are you’ve got time now for this vital civic duty.

By now your household will have received mail from the Census Bureau. In that official envelope you’ll find a 12-character code unique to your address. Go to my2020census.gov and answer the questions.

There are plenty of reasons to participate in the census, chief among them is the benefit of participating in our representative democracy. 

More:Detroit adapts census outreach strategy amid coronavirus pandemic

The census is codified in the U.S. Constitution as the mechanism for determining the number of seats each state occupies in the House of Representatives. By filling out the form once a decade, you’re doing your part to ensure that you receive accurate representation in Congress.

You’re also doing your part to ensure that your city, state and neighborhood are as eligible as possible for federal aid and grant money. During a pandemic whose economic impact our state and country will likely feel for years, it’s not hard to see why that matters. 

The success of the census has long-term implications for Detroit, which is why the city has spent $1.7 million to boost participation.

The number of Detroiters counted directly impacts the amount of money the city will receive annually from the federal government for all sorts of programs and grants for city services.

In 2010, participation was lacking, with only 64% of Detroiters responding before federal door-knockers went out to collect.

Today’s not the day to risk a visit from the feds, a fine or your constitutional right to accurate representation. Be counted

Detroit currently gets $5,000 per person per year in federal money. Mayor Mike Duggan has estimated Detroit’s poor response set the city back $300 million over the past decade.

Bottom line, if you aren't counted, Michigan and Detroit lose money and political influence.

Filling out the census now could save you grief down the road. Failing to complete the brief questionnaire is a violation of federal law. 

Due to understandable delays, the self-response period has been extended through the end of July. After that the list of census responses will be compared to the list of all U.S. residences. If you’re not on the list, chances are someone from the Census Bureau will contact you. 

If you refuse to provide the information, you could be fined up to $100. If you give false information, you could face fines of up to $500. And if you purposefully provide false information to cause the census count to be inaccurate, you could face a $1,000 fine and a year in prison.

If you're worried about the government sharing your private information, don’t be. Census data is protected by Title 13 of the federal code, the violation of which is a serious federal crime. Officials who abuse census information could face a $250,000 fine and a five-year stay in prison.

Today’s not the day to risk a visit from the feds, a fine or your constitutional right to accurate representation. Be counted.