The Census as Community Care

Community care in a time of social distancing is hard. This disconnect can feel especially isolating when our communities need support, and need to organize and advocate for each other. Now, we must find new ways to do so. 

As we maintain our distance and work to protect each other, I want to make sure we don’t forget about the 2020 Census. The census decides how billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated each year. This is money that funds schools, roads, public transportation, emergency services, affordable housing, healthcare, and so much more. 

Communities most likely to be undercounted are the communities that need these resources the most. An undercount will only exacerbate economic, racial, and gender disparities. 

Political power is also allocated through the census. Minnesota is projected to lose our 8th Congressional Seat because of our slowing population growth, which means less political power for Minnesotans overall. Our state will be redistricted to compensate, meaning our fewer districts will cover larger swaths of people. 

Of course, the form is often met with great suspicion. These concerns are valid and legitimate and based on real historical trauma. It is important we remain critical and skeptical of anything that could potentially cause us harm. 

Individual data gathered by the census — name, phone number, address, age, race and ethnicity — will be protected for 72 years. The data from the Census Bureau will be summarized so it is not possible to find personal information. No data can be used in a court of law. Landlords, police, and ICE do not have access to this information. Census responses cannot be subpoenaed, nor can data be accessed through a Freedom of Information Act request. Title 13 of the U.S. Code prohibits census data from being used for anything other than the creation of datasets, and prohibits the use of statistical datasets to be used for the “detriment” of any individual. 

If you are concerned about your private information, when you fill out the form you can use ‘Person 1,’ ‘Person 2,’ in lieu of using real names of you and your family members. You can also use a community center, like a library or masjid, in your neighborhood as your address if you would prefer. However, doing so will result in your address showing up as having not responded, and a Census Bureau worker will visit your home. 

The census is a simple and powerful way for our communities to take back our power. Ten minutes of your time will decide the next ten years of funding, resources, and political power. Go to 

This essay originally appeared on, one of our Year of 20/20 Vision leadership partners. Reviving Sisterhood is a designated Questionnaire Assistance Center (QAC), available to help with filling out census forms. or 612-568-8091 

View the full downloadable “Cocoon” Quaranzine here