Data Crucial to FMB
The United States Constitution mandates a Census of the nation’s population every 10 years, to determine the number of seats each state holds in the US House of Representatives and how much money state and local communities receive from billions of dollars in federal funds over the next 10 years. For the first time ever, the Census is available to complete online, over the telephone or by mail. With these three easy options, it is more convenient than ever for Fort Myers Beach residents to complete the Census by April 1, to avoid the need to interact with Census Bureau staff. Online data is secure, as the Census Bureau does not ask for your Social Security Number or share your personal information with any other agencies.
Fort Myers Beach council member Rexann Hosafros is on the Lee County Census Committee, representing Fort Myers Beach. “I ‘volunteered,’” she recalled with a laugh! “The one council meeting that I missed was the one attended by the US Census Bureau representative, who asked for a council member to serve, and Mayor Anita Cereceda ‘volunteered’ me! There are roughly 30 local people on the committee, ranging from government like myself and Betsy Clayton, the Lee County Communications Director, to folks from non-profits like the United Way, to a diversity of other community organizations. We met in person until the coronavirus outbreak and restrictions, but now receive email updates.”
There are several reasons why it is crucial for all Fort Myers Beach residents to complete their Census forms, explained Hosafros. “The Census determines how the Federal Government allocates funds to our community, so if we underreport, that can be millions less dollars we receive. Companies use Census results to determine areas to relocate or expand. There is a strong possibility that the 2020 Census will show that Southwest Florida underwent such significant population growth over the past decade that we will receive an additional United States Representative.”
“An accurate Lee County count is essential,” added Clayton in an email. “Data ensures that our community has fair representation in Federal and State legislatures and proportionate funding for roads and public transit, healthcare, schools, housing, parks, public safety, and many more county-wide programs,” as well as in post-disaster relief, such as the COVID-19 coronavirus or after hurricanes.
“Because the coronavirus pandemic is confining so many of us to our homes these days,” Hosafros said, “we hoped the US Census would already have a high rate of completion, but I recently learned that so far, returns are just average. If you cannot find your letter with your online Identification Number, you can call 844-330-2020 to receive it and, in some cases, can even complete your Census over the telephone. With all the concerns of daily life right now, many of us have other things on our minds, so it is easy to put that US Census card or letter with your Census Identification Number that most of us already received in the mail off to the side, so I encourage you to find it and complete your Census today. I already filled out mine and it took less than five minutes, so it is not time consuming at all!” This reporter completed his Census in four minutes!
If you do not complete your Census by Wednesday, April 1, you can still do it online, “but the Federal Government will initiate the next steps,” Hosafros explained. “They will mail you a Census Questionnaire to complete and return. If you still do not do so, they will eventually send a Census worker directly to your home to ask you those questions. Because of the coronavirus, however, the Census Bureau announced last week it is temporarily suspending any door-to-door operations, so you will not find a Census worker on your front doorstep on April 2, but at a more appropriate time. I still strongly encourage you to be a proactive good citizen and please complete yours by April 1.”
For questions, information, or to complete your online 2020 Census, see my2020Census.gov or call 844-330-2020; track Lee County responses at 2020Census.gov/en/response-rates.
Hosafros passed along one final piece of information about the US Census she finds interesting! “It will not surprise people who know me that I am kind of a geek! As such, I love watching on PBS ‘Finding Your Roots’ about various genealogies with Professor Henry Louis Gates, Junior, and they often use Census information to track down relatives. I always thought personal Census data was confidential, so I did some research and learned that after 72 years, it becomes public, so for any other Fort Myers Beach geeks working on their family histories, that is when you can access that data!”