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2020 Census: Here's What Maryland Residents Should Know

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Marcy Gouge, 68, is on a mission to get everyone in her home county of Frederick to participate in the U.S. census. That’s because she knows how important an accurate tally is for maintaining critical services for residents young and old.

The once-a-decade population count is used to redraw political lines and to determine state and federal funding levels for nutrition services, housing assistance, health programs and other supports that older adults rely on.

“Seniors and those who are low-income need those services desperately,” said Gouge, an AARP census volunteer. Raising awareness “is a way to help people understand that their participation helps the community.”

The 2020 census, which launches April 1, is designed to collect basic information on every U.S. resident, including age, race, sex and marital status.

Based on the 2010 count, Maryland received roughly $16.4 billion in federal funding for programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and low-income-housing loans in fiscal year 2016, an analysis by George Washington University shows.

With so much at stake, AARP Maryland is encouraging all residents to participate.

The state’s population is growing, which makes a precise count even more important, said Robert McCord, Maryland secretary of planning. From 2010 to 2019, the population increased nearly 5 percent, to over 6 million, and the number of residents 65 and older grew more than 30 percent.

“It’s like a family portrait we take every 10 years, and we need everybody in the picture to make it work,” McCord said.

Without an accurate snapshot, programs such as Meals on Wheels and independent-living assistance might not be adequately funded. Disaster and emergency planning and response could also be affected.

Volunteers, workers needed

AARP Maryland is reaching out to populations that have historically been difficult to count.

It has printed thousands of information cards in multiple languages and is working with local international grocery stores to place them in checkout bags. It’s also sharing information at events like Movies for Grownups and is recruiting more volunteers.

“We know how important this is, and we’re working to overcome the distrust and fear that some people have about getting involved in a government activity like this,” said Jim Campbell, 72, of Baltimore, who is AARP Maryland state president.

AARP has planned a news conference with the state attorney general’s office to make residents aware of census-related scams.

Marylanders will be asked to fill out census forms online, but paper documents will still be available for people uncomfortable with a digital format. Those who don’t respond to initial contact attempts will be visited by a census taker.

Others worry that providing census data could affect immigration status, especially for those who are undocumented. But the information does not get shared with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Go to aarp.org/md for more information on AARP’s census efforts or to volunteer.

There are also opportunities to work as a census taker. Apply at 2020census.gov/jobs or call 855-562-2020.

Michelle R. Davis is a writer living in Silver Spring.

More on the 2020 Census

5 Ways to Avoid Census Scams

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