By Connie Kraft


As we start to see the initial financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our area, completing the census has never been more important. Did you know that over the next 10 years census data will be used as a critical component for distribution of funds for federal programs?


Losing funding because of an incomplete count will be extremely detrimental to our area. We have been through so many disasters in the last few years, and completing the census is an easy way for you to help ensure that funding for our community isn’t lost.


For example, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is one of many special programs that are affected by the census count. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for WIC is a federally funded program providing nutritious and affordable food to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants and children up to age 5.


WIC has a $228,504,000 obligation and an undercount in the census would mean a loss in funds to help the women, infants, and children in our community. Other essential programs that are affected by the census count include: school lunch programs, after school programs, libraries and hospitals.


By now, most households should have received their invitation to respond to the 2020 Census. You can choose to complete the census online at www.my2020census.gov, by phone or by mail. The questionnaire takes 10 minutes to complete and asks a few questions about you and everyone who is living with you as of April 1.


Newborns, young children, foster children, roommates, family members and friends who live in your home should be counted. If you are a snowbird and own a vacation home elsewhere, you should fill out the census survey for the home where you live most of the time.


Not only is the census covered by law, but all census responses are protected by Title 13 of the U.S. Code. Under Title 13, the Census Bureau cannot share any identifiable information about you, your home, or your business, even to law enforcement agencies.


Violating this crime is a federal crime, punishable by prison time and/or a fine of up to $250,000. The census will not ask you about citizenship, Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or for donations.


Connie Kraft is Northern Illinois United Way director.