April 1 is known as Census Day.
And around the country, local officials are encouraging residents to complete census questionnaires this week.
"Lots of people are home right now, as you should be. But the truth is, it's also a great time to fill out your census," Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a video message
The results of the 2020 census will impact the lives of people around the country. And everyone living in the US plays a role in shaping them.
Here are some key things you need to know:
The census is a big deal.
The census, which happens every 10 years, determines how many representatives each state gets in Congress, and how billions of dollars in federal funding gets spent. Schools, roads, and other important things in your community will gain -- or lose -- funding over the next 10 years depending on this official population tally.
This is something the Census Bureau has been emphasizing in a $500 million outreach campaign featuring more than 1,000 ads
that have been hitting the airwaves for months. Why? Because, according to experts, when people learn why the census is important, they're more likely to respond.
It's required by law.
The census is required by the Constitution.
And on the envelopes en route to mailboxes across America, the message is clear -- printed in bold letters on the outside of the envelope: "YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW."
What if you refuse to respond or want to skip a question? You can be fined
, according federal statutes.
This year there's a significant change to how people are being counted.
It's the first time all households in the United States will have the chance to respond online
The coronavirus pandemic is having an impact.
Census mailings started going out to homes across the country earlier this month, just as the coronavirus pandemic was beginning to heat up in the United States.
Currently, those operations are suspended until April 15
while the Census Bureau evaluates the situation.
Lawmakers have said they're worried about the timing.
Sen. Tina Smith, who along with several Democratic colleagues sent a letter
to the Census Bureau earlier this month asking about coronavirus plans, said she's worried in the wake of coronavirus officials may rely too much on internet responses, something she fears could result in undercounting communities.
"It's a great concern," she said.
Census spokesman Michael Cook told CNN the agency has plans in place for people, households and communities that "don't have high connectivity to the internet." And officials say the way the census is designed -- giving people multiple ways to respond -- will allow local operations to adapt if necessary.
"If we need to delay or discontinue nonresponse follow-up visits in a particular community, we will adapt our operation to ensure we get a complete and accurate count," the Census Bureau has said
A citizenship question isn't on the census.
Everyone living in the United States is supposed to be counted by the census, whether they're citizens or not.
The Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration from putting a citizenship question on the census
. But even though that question isn't in the mix, there are still concerns about whether the months-long debate over it will influence response rates.
Worried some people will be scared to respond to the census, advocates who work with immigrant communities have been doubling down on their outreach efforts in recent months.
Fielding questions at a recent event in Washington, Census officials stressed that Title 13 of the U.S. Code
guarantees that personal information provided for the census is confidential.
"I can assure you that not only does the law require us to do our job professionally and protect confidential information, but we have all the systems in place -- the most sophisticated systems available -- to protect the information," Director Steven Dillingham said.
The first 2020 census mailings you get might include a written questionnaire -- or they might not.
The US Census Bureau has been sending different mailings to different households, depending on a variety of