Why It's Important for Military Families to Complete the Census This Year

woman sitting at table on computer
(Courtesy Photo)

Sometimes, military spouses feel like they don't belong anywhere. With a driver's license from one state, a vehicle registered in a different state and living in a third, it's really hard to figure out where you belong. This may make spouses feel like they don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to local issues.

But this couldn't be further from the truth when it comes to the U.S. Census.

"Everyone living in the United States and its five territories is required by law to be counted in the 2020 Census," the Census website states. This sometimes means that Census officials will follow up with you if they haven't received your response.

One thing that may be standing in your way regarding the census is questions. Lots of questions because, well, military life is complicated. Here are some answers to those common questions.

Question 1: Where Am I Counted?

The goal is to get an accurate count of everyone. So, as a general rule, you count yourself based on where you are living and sleeping most of the time as of April 1, 2020. Now, let's break it down a little further for some of the situations that military families face.

If you live off the installation or in a house on a military base, you fill out the census online, by phone or by mail just like anyone else.

If your service member is deployed, on a ship or stationed overseas unaccompanied, fill out the census based on the rest of your household. The military will use existing data from the Department of Defense or a military point of contact for the unit to fill in those gaps.

If you are stationed overseas with your service member, again data from the DoD will be used to count you and your family.

Question 2: Who Should I Count?

Who you count in your census is different from who you may count in your taxes. Count everyone who was living in your house on April 1, 2020. If someone is living with you who wouldn't normally live with you (because of COVID-19), they should be counted where they normally live.

As the Census website states, "Where there are more people, there are more needs. An accurate count helps inform funding for hospitals, fire departments, schools and roads for the next 10 years."

Which means everyone needs to be counted.

Question 3: Why Do I Care?

You may be thinking, I'm not going to be living here in 10 years, so why do I care? Well, you may not, but chances are another military family will be living in that town. So by making sure your family is counted, you're paying it forward for the next generation of military families -- which is something we all like to do.

The census is only 10 questions and takes about 10 minutes, so it's really not that time-consuming or complicated. It's worth it to make sure appropriate resources are allocated to the area where you live.

If you have more questions about the 2020 Census, check out its list of Frequently Asked Questions.

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--Rebecca Alwine can be reached at rebecca.alwine@monster.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebecca_alwine.

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