According to Timothy P. Olson, associate director for field operations for the U.S. Census Bureau, it is imperative that members of the LGBT community fill out their census data in the upcoming months.
"The results of the census will determine how everyone is represented in congress and the state legislatures for the next decade," explained Olson, who is openly gay. "That is the critical thing for people to realize. Their voice in the U.S. Congress is dictated by the number of seats that they get and that's based on the census count."
Another important consideration, he added, is that "$675 billion are allocated to communities throughout the U.S. for school funding, transportationpublic transportation and regular roads and bridgeshealthcare programs, senior services and housing programs. By being counted, they are ensuring that their community will get the fair share of that funding."
In mid-March, every address in the country will receive a series of official invitations to fill out their census form. The form can be filled out securely online and takes about 10 minutes, Olson said.
He emphasized that every person living in a household, even if they are residing there on a temporary basis, or are not a blood relation, should be counted.
"Everybody who lives at that address, related or unrelated, needs to be on that form," Olson said.
For the first time in U.S. history, when the form asks about specific relationships, respondents will be able to choose categories describing same-sex relationships. While some information had been tabulated in previous censuses, this is the first time specific options were provided to respondents.
"This is a big deal for the gay and lesbian community," noted Olson. " … I hope people will self-respond accurately so we'll have an accurate count of same-sex couples living together. We can then see a real profile of America, and a profile of each state in an accurate count."
He noted that the responses are encrypted, confidential and protected by law.
"The Census Bureau cannot share information with immigration authorities, or the FBI, IRS or local code enforcement," Olson explained. "If you're in an apartment and the landlord thinks you should only have two people there, but there are five, we want you to put five people on that questionnaire. The Census Bureau cannot share that there are five people at that address with anybody at all."
Olson noted that the Census Bureau is still recruiting for temporary census employees in the in the Chicago area. Applicants must be at least 18 and a U.S. citizen, and must pass a simple background check.
"We urge people to reply to right now," he said.
For more information, see 2020census.gov/jobs .
Note: This is one in a series that will run in Windy City Times about the U.S. Census.