Headcount of military members key to U.S. communities, too

March 04 2020

By Richard Bammer | rbammer@thereporter.com | Vacaville Reporter

PUBLISHED: February 22, 2020 at 3:06 p.m. | UPDATED: February 22, 2020 at 3:07 p.m.

For cities and states across the country, especially for Solano County and California, active-duty military, veterans and their families are an important part of community life.

But military families may not realize just how important they are when it comes to the 2020 Census, according to officials at the U.S. Census Bureau in Washington, D.C.

To be sure, the census, essentially a national headcount, will affect their communities’ political representation, called apportionment, and some $675 billion in federal funding for the next 10 years.

State, local and federal officials use census data to dole out dollars for infrastructure and critical public services, among them hospitals, schools, emergency response services, and road maintenance and construction, services that military members, veterans and their families use while they live in a community.

Most military households are responsible for responding to the census on their own if they are stationed or living in the United States.

U.S. households, including those of service members, veterans and their families living stateside, will receive an invitation, likely a postcard in the regular mail, to complete a questionnaire online between March 12 and 20. People can respond to the census online (for first time), by phone or by mail, census officials pointed out in a press release.

The online option could be particularly popular with enlisted active-duty military members, more than half of whom are younger than 25 years old, census officials noted in the prepared statement, citing Department of Defense (DOD) data from 2017.

Most military households are responsible for responding to the 2020 Census on their own if they are stationed or living in the United States. People will be counted where they live and sleep most of the time as of April 1, 2020 (Census Day). When filling out the questionnaire,  count everyone who lives in a household, including young children, newborns and any relatives or others.

Service members will be counted in a military barracks in the U.S. if that’s where they are living on April 1. “A military point of contact,” sworn to protect respondents’ privacy, will distribute individual questionnaires, collect them when complete, and return them to the Census Bureau, according to wording in the bureau’s release. This is similar to how people living in other “group quarter” facilities, such as college or university student housing, respond as part of the group quarters data collection.

For those in the Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard, the same procedure applies if the service members are living on a military vessel with a stateside homeport.

Service members do not have to fill out a questionnaire if deployed or on a military vessel with a homeport OUTSIDE the United States. The DOD will provide the Bureau with administrative data for service members and family living overseas as of April 1.

Responses to the census are safe and secure. Federal law bars the Bureau from releasing personal census data to law enforcement, immigration agencies or other government agencies, census officials noted.

For homeless veterans, the national headcount may prove to be difficult, said Ted Puntillo, longtime director of Solano County Veterans Services in Fairfield.

On Friday, he said three of his clients were homeless veterans with no mailing address but still eligible to receive benefits.

“The most vulnerable of us will not be counted, unfortunately,” said Puntillo, adding that, so far this year, veterans visiting his office in the County Administration Center have not mentioned the census.

KEY REMINDERS for service members on active-duty and:

Deployed outside the United States while stationed in the United States, the Bureau will use administrative data from DOD to count you at your usual U.S. residence. However, any family members living in the United States need to respond for themselves to the census questionnaire.

Stationed outside the United States, the Bureau will use administrative data from DOD to count you and any dependents living with you overseas at your home state of record in the United States.

Staying in barracks or other on-base group quarters in the United States, the Census Bureau will work with a point of contact on your base to ensure you are counted. In most cases, the contact will ask respondents to fill out an individual census questionnaire.

Military family members and veterans living in the U.S. will receive invitations to respond to the census at their homes.

Be sure to count everyone in the household, unless you are staying in certain types of group quarters such as college dorms or group homes.

The Reporter