What is the Census and Why is it Important? The census is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau every ten years. The Constitution requires that every person in the United States be counted—adults, children and babies, citizens, immigrants, and anyone living in this country. States use census data to determine representation in Congress. States and localities also use census data to plan where health clinics, schools, and roads will be built. The federal government uses census data to help allocate over $800 billion a year in federal funds.
Despite the vital importance of the census, we face a potential undercount of certain hard to count populations. Why does this matter? The 2020 census will determine how much federal funding Maine receives each year for the next decade. When we aren’t counted, communities don’t get their fair share of federal dollars for mental and behavioral health, public assistance, public health insurance, housing, child care, social programs and services vital to keeping us healthy.
Did you know that every person missed in the census is $15,000- $20,000 of federal funds lost to Maine over the course of a decade?
Why Mainers Accessing Behavioral Health Services May Not Participate in the Census:
- They don’t think the census has an impact on their life
- They don’t feel comfortable sharing personal information. They worry information will be used against them. Individuals are concerned that personal information provided to the census could interfere with housing, Social Security, MaineCare, and other social benefit programs. This is of particular concern when people have waited years to get an eligibility determination.
- They are experiencing homelessness and cannot be located.
Is the Census Safe?
Data collected is protected by law and cannot be shared with anyone including other government agencies, immigration or law enforcement under penalty of fines and imprisonment. Census records only get released every 72 years.