To help mobilize the rural and agricultural community, the Illinois Farm Bureau (IFB) has equipped each of its county Farm Bureaus with technology to aid the public in completing the National 2020 Census questionnaire.

All local Farm Bureaus have been given an iPad to assist both members and non-members in getting access to the internet and WiFi to complete their 2020 Census questionnaire. Rebecca Perry, from the Edwards County Farm Bureau said, “April 1st is ‘National Get Counted Day,’” and that all local Farm Bureaus are poised and ready to assist community members complete their 2020 Census questionnaire easily and efficiently.

“Between March 12 and March 20, about 95 percent of all households in the country will receive a [letter] in the mail inviting them to fill out their census form online or by phone in their language,” said Peter Hancock of Capitol News. These mailings will contain a unique access code that is linked to your physical address, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s most current information.

The unique 12-digit code is printed on the paper Census questionnaire and will also be mailed in a letter separately.

Perry shared the same information, but added, “If you have a Post Office (PO) Box, you will not get the mailing,” because the Census Bureau bases the mailings off of physical addresses throughout the country. PO Boxes are not physical addresses, thus will not receive anything in the mail.

However, Perry said you do not need to receive the mailing in order to complete the census. “If you don’t get one…you can go online to https://2020census.gov/, go to your local county Farm Bureau office to complete the census online or call 1-844-330-2020. Instead of entering your unique access code, you’ll select the link below stating you don’t have one. Another option, according to the mailing received, is to wait until you receive another paper questionnaire-which will be mailed to your address “in a few weeks.”

She said to complete the census, “the average family should expect it to take 5 to 10 minutes.” Some models indicate it should take approximately one minute per household member to complete. This is the first time the U.S. Census Bureau is asking household residents to complete the survey online.

The Census questionnaire asks basic questions to provide information about all adults, children and babies living or staying at an address. According to Capitol News Illinois, officials have stated that a lot is at stake in getting an accurate population count.

“The census is so important that your response is required by law, and your answers are kept completely confidential. If you do not respond, we will need to send a Census Bureau investigator to your home to collect your answers in person,” informed Steven D. Dillingham, Director of the U.S. Census Bureau.

The U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 2) mandates a census every 10 years to get an accurate population and housing count. The 2020 Census is being conducted under the authority of Title 13, U.S. Code, Sections 141, 193 and 221.

“The census is only nine questions-nine questions that impact every single person in your hometown, our state and across the country,” Grace Hou, secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, said during a news conference last Wednesday. “These nine questions are important for your family, your neighbor, your city, your county and your state because your response determines Illinois' infrastructure, meaning roads, hospitals, schools, grocery stores and fire stations.”

 “Local communities depend on information from the Census Bureau to fund programs that promote the well-being of families and children as well as equal employment opportunities for you and your neighbors,” said Dillingham.

The results of the 2020 Census will be used to “direct billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities for schools, roads and other public services; help your community prepare to meet transportation and emergency readiness needs and determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and your political representation at all levels of government.”

Which leads to how important the census is locally. It may affect those in southern Illinois more than anticipated. Illinois Farm Bureau President Richard Guebert, Jr. reiterated, “the U.S. Census is directly related to Illinois’ representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

“With Illinois losing population over the last several years, the state could lose one, maybe two, seats in the U.S. House. That makes this survey extremely important for the state to have widespread participation and accurate responses from its citizens.”

The Farm Bureau is in a perfect situation to help all community members access the Census questionnaire, since every county has one with regular operating hours and internet access/WiFi. The Farm Bureaus also have a stake in helping members of rural and agricultural communities: they want their communities to be represented, as well as successful.

The Census Access Hours at local Farm Bureaus are as follows (current as of March 17):

Edwards County Farm Bureau; 15 S. 5th St, Albion: 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Wabash County Farm Bureau; 1128 Oak St, Mt. Carmel: 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

White County Farm Bureau; 304 E. Robinson St. # B, Carmi: 9 a.m. until 12 p.m.; then 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.

Wayne County Farm Bureau; 301 E. Court St., Fairfield: 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Richland County Farm Bureau; 710 N. West St., Olney: CLOSED as of March 17

The local Farm Bureaus are urging as many people as possible to take a few moments to fill out the Census questionnaire. However, according to Carol Beadles at the Wabash County Farm Bureau, “please keep in mind that with the current COVID-19 situation, things could change,” in regard to hours and/or operations.

The local Farm Bureaus also suggest calling first to ascertain hours and/or operations have not changed. “We’re in a very fluid situation,” said Doug Anderson for both the Wayne and White Counties Farm Bureaus. “We’re going to wipe everything down after each use,” and for community members to be mindful of that as well as practicing social distancing, which will be enforced.

If you do not want to fill out the Census questionnaire online, misplaced your paper questionnaire or do not want to go to your local Farm Bureau during the current situation: as stated previously, you will receive another paper questionnaire in a few weeks or you can call 1-844-330-2020 for help completing your Census questionnaire. Or, you can wait until the U.S. Census Bureau investigator shows up at your front door.