Real Possibilities – Gearing up for Census 2020

Date: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2019 - 14:49
Author: 
Craig Gima

Craig Gima
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

Do you remember the year 2010?

That was the year Apple released the iPhone 4 and the iPad, which introduced touch-screen computing. “The Hurt Locker” won the Oscar for Best Picture, and in Chile, all 33 miners trapped in the Copiapo mining accident were pulled out alive after 68 days underground.

It was also the last decennial census in the United States, and while it may not have been a highlight of 2010, the information gathered still affects your life.

The census helps determine the boundaries for your elected representatives in Congress, the Legislature and County Councils. It also affects federal funding to pay for roads, mass transit, Medicaid, student loans, affordable housing, school lunches, preschools and a myriad of federal programs. Hawai‘i received $3.6 billion in federal funding in 2016 based on census population information. It’s estimated that every 1 percent of people undercounted in the census costs the state $37 million a year.

In other words, if one person out of 100 doesn’t answer the census when it happens next year, Hawai‘i taxpayers will lose about $370 million in federal funds over a 10-year period. That’s why AARP is helping to make sure that everyone is counted. We especially want to make sure that people 50 and older are counted so that federal programs to help older Americans are fully funded in Hawai‘i.

The biggest difference between the 2010 census and next year is that people will be able to answer census questions online or by calling a 1-800 number. The Census Bureau is hoping online responses will save money because fewer workers will be needed to collect information door-to-door. Paper forms will still be available for those who prefer them. No one should not take the census because they can’t get online.

The census count officially begins on Jan. 21, 2020, in Alaska. However, most households in Hawai‘i will get a postcard or letter in March, explaining how to participate.

In the meantime, watch out for census scams. Events like the census bring out scammers looking for new ways to steal your money or your identity. Legitimate census workers will never ask for your Social Security number, bank or credit card numbers, your mother’s maiden name or threaten you with arrest if you don’t answer questions. The Census Bureau will contact 95 percent of Americans by mail. So be suspicious of text messages, phone calls or emails. If you suspect fraud, call the Census Bureau at 1-800-923-8282.

If you are looking for a full- or part-time job, the Census Bureau is hiring more than 400,000 temporary workers. Applications can be completed online at https://2020census.gov/en/jobs. But, again, be wary of scammers who send you unsolicited phone, email or texts trying to get your Social Security information or money for a job.

To learn more about the census, sign up for AARP’s Census Telephone Town Hall on Thursday, Sept. 26, at 9 a.m., Hawai‘i time. Go to https://vekeo.com/event/aarp-47105/ to register. The dial-in number is 1-877-229-8493, PIN: 110189.

The census allows you to Define Your Decade. Your participation counts.

Craig Gima is communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience in telling stories online, in print and on television. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of reporting, editing and online roles before joining AARP in 2016. He also wrote a food column. Gima also covered politics and higher education and filed reports from more than a dozen countries in East and Southeast Asia. His experience in television news includes tenures at KHON-TV in Honolulu, KPIX-TV in San Francisco and KCRA-TV in Sacramento. Gima graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California.

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