In case you hadn’t noticed, your neighborhood is being canvassed by strangers approaching your door. They aren’t selling anything, asking you to sign a petition, or trying to convince you to consider a different religion. They aren’t even stopping at every house on your block.
As that person makes their way up to your driveway, don’t hide the pets and children. Don’t make-believe you’re not home by turning off the lights and shushing everyone to be quiet. They are not there to hurt or harm you. They are just there to count you.
With the 2020 Census scheduled to conclude at the end of September, a lot of people still haven’t been counted. You know, you could have avoided all of this by just filling out the census form they sent you earlier in the year. But no, you had to get on Uncle Sam’s “naughty” list by ignoring (or refusing) to be counted. Now, the government is sending people to ring your doorbell and find out how many people live in your house.
Of course, many of you might have dutifully completed your census online or mailed it back months ago. However, if it wasn’t correctly registered and counted, your address might come up on the “naughty” list. But don’t worry, all your presidential mail-in ballots will be counted accurately in November, right?
Please understand that these Census takers have a job to do, so be gentle with them. Besides, one of them you encounter might be my wife.
After a complete vetting process and almost 20 hours of training, my wife ventured out for the first time recently to begin the quest of counting heads that haven’t yet been counted. What she found has been quite eye-opening.
A number of you aren’t interested in cooperating. Don’t get me wrong, many of the people are understanding and polite. Sometimes they will take the time to answer the few basic questions. Other times, they politely decline. The questions are relatively simple and innocuous.
• How many people live in your house?
• What is their name, sex, age and relationship?
• What is their ethnicity (Hispanic or non-Hispanic) and race?
Want to know the best part? You don’t have to answer any of them if you don’t want to, so there is no need to be rude.
If you are uncomfortable with talking to a certified Census taker because they are a stranger, ask them for the Census Identification number for your address. You can then do it yourself either online or via the telephone. If you aren’t home (or you are hiding and won’t answer the door), they will leave you a document with your Census Identification number on it.
Although on Long Island we don’t have a lot of people coming door-to-door selling things, we don’t automatically answer the door just because the doorbell rings. Recently, the Town of Oyster Bay has made available “No Soliciting” stickers that residents can put on their front doors if they feel the need. But this isn’t soliciting. This is important.
Believe it or not, these census takers are doing you a favor. For the next 10 years, billions (yes, billions) of federal dollars will be distributed based on these population tallies. Highway planning, commuting costs, and school funds are all tied to the final 2020 Census figures. Where do you think some of the local funding for community programs, libraries, and programs for elderly housing assistance comes from? Think of it as helping your community.
These census takers are not your enemy. There is no Big Brother conspiracy going on here. They are your friends and neighbors trying to do their civic duty and make some additional cash at the same time.
So please, take a few minutes and answer the questions. But more importantly, be kind to the Census taker when they approach your house. Besides, one of them might be my wife.
Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a Press Club of Long Island award-winning columnist (2018, 2020) and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.