January is nearly gone, which means that Census Day is only two months away. The official 2020 Census Day is April 1, and that’s no joke! The nation’s decennial census, as mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution, is happening this spring, with April 1 as the target date for the count. By being counted in the 2020 Census, you can help determine funding for local school programs, healthcare, emergency services, affordable housing, roads, public transportation, and many other services we rely on each day.
Politically, the census affects the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives allocated to each state. Some states will gain House member districts, others probably will lose them. We won’t know until the count is complete and reported to Congress in 2021. Of far more importance, perhaps, is the allocation of funding for hundreds of federal, state, and local programs that serve our communities. Learn why you should be counted at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/topics/census.
Participating in the census is simple: in mid-March, households will receive a census “invitation” in the mail. You will have three options to respond: online, by phone, or by mail. Approximately 95 percent of households will receive their invitation in the mail; five percent will receive theirs when a census taker drops it off primarily for households that use a P.O. Box or other drop for mail. You may receive a reminder letter in late March, and a reminder postcard if you still have not responded in early April. If you still have not responded, a final reminder postcard will be sent in late April, then a follow-up visit by a census taker in person.
Mason District has a very diverse population, so reaching residents where they live and in their own language may prove to be a bit challenging. Everyone must be counted, regardless of citizenship status, employment, or any other criteria. A quick glance at Census Tract data reveals broad differences between nearby Census Tracts, even just blocks apart. In some, more than half of the residents are renters, limited English proficiency approaches 35 percent, access to Internet is limited or non-existent, and the foreign-born population is greater than 50 percent. These differences may make it more difficult to assure a complete count, but greater effort will pay off in the long run. A complete enumeration ensures that all residents in the community are counted. Northern Virginia stands to lose $12,000 each decade for every person not counted in the April 1 census. That’s more than $1,000 in real money lost, per person, each year. Don’t let your tax dollars be spent somewhere else. Plan now to respond to the census invitation as soon as you receive it. It’s quick, easy, and once it’s done, you won’t have to worry about it for another 10 years!
The Art in the Mason District Governmental Center program features Rita McCarn and her students at Sleepy Hollow Studio. Rita is a professional artist and teacher, and her students range from pre-teens to adults. The show includes pencil sketches of pets, watercolor mountain scenes, and still lifes by the students, as well as larger landscapes by Rita. The show runs through Feb. 27, and can be viewed Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.