In just a few months, people across the United States will be asked to answer questions about their household by the government. Knowing many are concerned about having their identity stolen, officials are working with the media and local officials to calm any fears.

Tammy Parise, a Southern Arizona Partnership coordinator with the U.S. Census Bureau, recently answered several questions.

Q: How important is it to participate in the 2020 Census?

A: "Basically, the census data informs two things. Number one, it's our voice in government. The results of the 2020 Census informs how many seats each state gets in Congress. Then, secondly, the census data drives the distribution of over $675 billion annually to the states so it's about having your voice heard in Congress and about the money the communities need. The census data informs the decisions as to what is needed in a community. Is there a daycare needed down the street? Road construction, or maybe a senior center. The data informs those decisions and that's why it's critically important to participate."

Q: Will residents receive advance notice of a Census Bureau worker's visit?

A: According to Parise, the bureau will send as many as four mailings to each household inviting them to participate in the census by answering the questions online or by calling the bureau. It's only when people don't participate via those options that a census bureau will knock on their door.

Q: When will people receive the mailings?

A: Anywhere from March through May 2020.

Q: When will the Census Bureau workers start knocking on doors?

A: May 13, 2020 through July 24, 2020.

Q: What will people be asked?

A: How many people live or stayed in the home on April 1, 2020. If it's owned or rented. Your phone number and the name, gender, birthdate, race and ethnicity of the people living in the home.

Q: How long does it take?

A: Ten to 15 minutes.

Q: How can I verify the person at my door is a census worker?

A: "First, they will have a badge and that badge, hanging around their neck, most often on a Census Bureau lanyard, includes their name, photograph and a watermark by the Department of Commerce, along with an expiration date," Parise said. "In addition, our field employees are required to carry a bag. It's a black-type briefcase bag with a large blue and white census logo. It's required that they have a letter with them that's on official letterhead stating why they're visiting the residence. Field workers need to visit people in their homes so anyone that has a Census Bureau worker at their door it should be between the hours of 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. that way we can catch people when they're home. Also the field employee can give the name of their supervisor and a number where they can call to verify their identity. And in the age of technology that we enjoy today. Every single Census Bureau employee's name is published on our website. Lastly, they can call a phone number to verify the identity." 

Q: What is that phone number? What is the website?

A: 1-800-852-6159 and census.gov

Q: What questions should send up red flags?

A: "One of the key red flags that should alert someone that the line of question is likely fraudulent is the Census Bureau never asks for Social Security numbers. We ask the questions that are on the questionnaire only, so no Social Security numbers and no financial information is asked on the 2020 Census. Now, the Census Bureau is on the ground every month of every year doing different types of surveys, so other surveys may ask, for instance, your household annual income, but for the purpose of the 2020 Census we are not asking for Social Security numbers or financial information."

Q: What else should we know?

A: According to Parise, the Census Bureau is hiring 500,000 field workers nationwide. Officials hope at least 57,000 people will apply in Arizona at census. gov.

Kim Smith | 520-547-9740