2020 Census

The Census Counts.
So do you.

Remember, students who weren’t in Bellingham on April 1 due to COVID-19 should still count themselves at the place they live the majority of time during school.

Your participation helps determine how billions of dollars in federal funding flow into communities each year, supporting schools, health clinics, fire departments, roads and highways and parks and recreation.

Census participation determines how many seats in Congress each state gets. More participants means more representation. Be sure you count!

Your answers are confidential. By law, the Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about you or your home, even to law enforcement agencies.

Help Whatcom County and future WWU students thrive by participating in the 2020 Census

Census FAQs for WWU

The Census is a brief survey the Census Bureau sends to every household in the country every 10 years. It is required by the U.S. Constitution to count every living person in the United States, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.

  1. Participation in the Census brings vital federal dollars to our state and local communities because the Census results guide public funding decisions. In 2017, Washington State received $29 billion in Census guided spending (based on the 2010 Census). Estimates indicate that every individual who completes the 2020 Census could bring an additional $2500 per year to our communities. That means that filling out the Census could bring our community an additional $25,000 over the next 10 years from just one completed Census form.
  2. Many of the most important decisions made by government and business leaders are based on the information that is provided by the Census. The Census is the foundation of fair political representation. Seats in the House of Representatives, state legislative seats, and city elected positions all rely on the Census to ensure equal representation of the people.

Yes. Everyone living in the 50 states, D.C., and 5 U.S. Territories is required by law to be counted in the 2020 Census.

Certain questions are asked to provide federal needs and community benefits. The information the Census Bureau collects helps determine how more than $675 billion of federal funding annually is spent on infrastructure and services. Your answers help federal, state and local leaders make decisions about schools, hospitals, emergency services, roads, bridges, job-training centers, and many other projects and programs that benefit our community.

Most households will receive their 2020 Census questionnaire in mid-March. You can participate online or by phone through July 31.

The Census Bureau will contact you by mail, and you can respond online, by telephone, or by mail. The Census Bureau expects many households to complete the questionnaire online, using instructions received in the mail.

You should count yourself at the residence where you live and sleep most of the time. For Western students, that should be your local residence while in school, if you reside there on April 1.

If you live off campus

You should count your local off campus address as your residence if that is the place you live and sleep most of the time.

If you live on campus

University Residences works with the Census Bureau to count every student who lives on campus. Students living in WWU’s residence halls will receive notice when that occurs.

Students should still respond based on where they live most of the time while attending Western and not a parent/family address.

You should count yourself where you sleep most of the time. If you cannot determine where that is, please count yourself at the location you reside on April 1, 2020.

Those experiencing homelessness, including those who live in their cars can check a box on the online form to indicate you are experiencing homelessness or have no address. Once that box is checked, you can input general information about your location (ex. list street corner, etc.) You can also call 1-844-330-2020 to respond to the census in English.

  1. Yes. The Census Bureau is subject to some of the strongest privacy protections in federal law.  Private information collected through any survey conducted by the Census Bureau can never be published. It is against the law for the Census Bureau to disclose or publish any private information that identifies an individual or their address. Personal information collected through the Census also cannot be disclosed to any person, organization, or government body, including other departments of the federal government, state governments or any law enforcement.   
  2. All Census Bureau employees and every person with access to protected Census data are legally required to maintain the confidentiality of Census data, and sworn for life to protect that information. Anyone who violates this law faces severe penalties.
  3. The ACLU and other groups are monitoring closely to ensure full compliance with privacy protections and laws.  

2020 is the first time the Census Questionnaire can be completed online. Concerns about cybersecurity have been raised. The U.S. Census Bureau states that the agency has a team of cybersecurity experts who monitor and protect all agency technology around the clock. The agency’s cybersecurity meets the highest standards for protecting your information, with the goal – and legal obligation – of keeping your data safe from the moment your responses are collected. The Census Bureau’s technology is protected by strong authentication and authorization methods and is fully “locked down” so that it can only be accessed by fully vetted individuals who are trained in data and cybersecurity.

No. The law prevents the Census Bureau from sharing your information with law enforcement. Your answers cannot be used to impact your eligibility for government benefits. Your answers are only used to create statistics about our country. The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to protect your personal information and keep it strictly confidential.

You can see the questions and more information at the census site question overview. You can also view the official 2020 Census form, and find a video provided by the Census Bureau that also reviews each question.

No. The Supreme Court and other courts have permanently blocked the government from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. More information can be found on the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington FAQs webpage.

When you fill out the Census, you are securing funds for Whatcom County for the next 10 years. For students, that means, future students and local community members could benefit from your presence well after you’ve graduated.

Yes! Census information and supporting materials are available in 59 languages. You can see the list of supported languages at the census site.

No. The Census asks for names just to ensure they are only receiving one response from each person. There is no requirement that you provide the name that is on your official documents. So, you can use the name you are most comfortable using, even if it is not on documents such as a driver’s license or birth certificate.

As with many forms that ask about sex, the Census does not recognize the diversity of sexes and gender identities that people have. Many transgender and non-binary people navigate this question frequently. You can self-identify here in the way that feels most comfortable to you. The Census Bureau does not cross-check information individuals provide on the Census with any other documentation.

The Census questions on ethnicity and race are important for the evaluation of federal programs and for the enforcement of civil rights. Understanding race helps identify disparities that exist throughout the country and use it to better serve our communities. Although the questions on race and ethnicity have been expanded to allow for people to write in their race or ethnicity, the options provided are still limited and do not reflect the ways some people self-identify. You can self-identify your race and ethnicity as best you can within the options provided.

The Census Bureau will never ask for your full Social Security Number, money or donations, anything on behalf of a political party, or your bank account or credit card numbers. All correspondence from the Census will also come from Jeffersonville, IN.

If you don’t respond in a timely fashion, the U.S. Census Bureau will send people, known as enumerators, to visit and collect responses from households in person in late-April though early-July. To avoid being visited by enumerators, make sure to fill out the Census online, by mail, or by phone before April 2020. Moreover, if an enumerator still can’t connect with you, the Bureau will fill out the Census survey on your behalf, inputting answers based on what they believe is the make-up of your household based on statistics. (Which is why it matters to fill it out so you are accurately counted!)

Representatives are typically members of our community just like you. They get paid to encourage people to complete the Census, answer questions or concerns, and provide assistance. Here are some recognition tips to assure the validity of the representative:

1. Must present an ID badge, which contains a photograph, Department of Commerce watermark, and expiration date.

2. Will provide you with supervisor contact information and/or the regional office phone number for verification, if asked.

3. Will provide you with a letter from the Director of the Census Bureau on the U.S. Census Bureau letterhead.

4. May be carrying a laptop and/or bag with a Census Bureau logo.

The U.S. Census Bureau hires thousands of people across the country to work on the 2020 Census and is an equal opportunity employer.


Sara Bernardy – Whatcom County Census Representative

Chris Roselli – WWU Community Relations

L.K. Langley – LGBTQ+ Western

Vicki Matey – WWU Multicultural Center