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James L. White/Staff

Gov. Asa Hutchinson addresses the importance of participating in the 2020 Census while making a stop in Harrison last week.

It won’t be long before the 2020 Census begins in earnest and Gov. Asa Hutchinson is urging every Arkansan to participate.

The 2020 Census officially began Monday by counting the population in remote Alaska. The count officially begins in the rural Alaskan village of Toksook Bay, the U.S. Census Bureau says,

The count is mandated by the Constitution and conducted by the bureau, a nonpartisan government agency. The 2020 Census counts the population in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands).

The census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers and many others use to provide daily services, products and support for you and your community. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads and other resources based on census data.

“We want everybody to be counted and it’s important to participate because if we’re undercounted, that means that more money — our money — is going to be going to New York or California or other states,” Hutchinson said. “So, we want to make sure we have that turnback money that impacts all of our communities because it’s federal money that comes back based on population.”

It’s much the same way the county-wide 1% sales tax in Boone County is collected and distributed to cities and municipalities based on population. States receive turnback funds and cities and municipalities in turn receive turnback funds from the state.

The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are used to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

Census data is collected either by mail, e-mail or an in-home visit from a census worker.

Hutchinson said he understands that people sometimes just don't want to participate in giving out any information.

“They just blow it off. They don’t want to have to do the paperwork or fill out the form or answer the questions,” the governor said. “Or they might just be nervous about it and untrustworthy.”

The Census Bureau maintains that it is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to keep your information confidential. In fact, every employee takes an oath to protect your personal information for life.

Under Title 13, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you, your home or your business, even to law enforcement agencies. The law ensures that your private data is protected and that your answers cannot be used against you by any government agency or court.

The answers you provide are used only to produce statistics, the bureau says. You are kept anonymous: The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in any way that could identify you or anyone else in your home.

Being responsible stewards of your data is not only required by law, it is embedded in Census Bureau culture. Strict policies and statistical safeguards help protect the confidentiality of your information. Before releasing data products, the Census Bureau verifies that they meet its confidentiality standards.

“So, they need to feel confident,” Hutchinson said. “We’re trying to educate everyone on that, that this is something important. We want to make sure everyone in Arkansas gets counted.”

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