You probably know that this is a U.S. Census year. You may not know why it’s so important that everyone in Pinellas County is counted. That’s what I’d like to share with you this month.

Once every decade, America gets the chance to count its population — and it’s much more than a head count. Laid out in the U.S. Constitution, the census survey determines how billions of federal dollars are distributed across the U.S. for programs that make our communities a better place to live. In Florida alone, census data guides about $44 billion each year to support life-changing programs such as Medicaid, affordable housing, Pell Grants for college, SNAP nutritional assistance, the school lunch program, and much more. If we want our community to get its fair share, we need to make sure every person is counted in the 2020 Census.

In the last census, Pinellas County’s response rate was 76 percent. This time, we need to make sure every person gets counted. An undercount could cost our area millions of dollars. Let’s make sure Pinellas County remains a place where we can all thrive and where our voices are heard and represented. Be sure to complete the census questionnaire for your household, and spread the word about it to your family, friends and coworkers.

The impact of the census extends far beyond funding. The counts also determine how many representatives we have in Congress. We want Florida to have all the representation it deserves when it comes to political decisions that shape the future of our state and the country. Besides that, census results guide important decisions for governments, nonprofit organizations and businesses. The data is used to determine community needs such as new schools, hospitals, and roads, and when it comes to disaster response, the statistics are used to identify where help is needed.

Taking the census is quick and easy, and this year we will have options to complete the questionnaire online, by mail or by phone. By April 1, you can expect to receive an invitation — sent in the mail or dropped off by a census worker — to complete the short survey. For any households that have not responded by early May, the U.S. Census Bureau will be sending staff out to collect the information in person.

The 2020 Census will ask for basic information about each household, such as the number of people living there and their name, age, sex and race or ethnicity. It will not include a question about citizenship and will never ask for your social security number. In fact, the census collects less personal information than we provide when filing taxes or enrolling in school. When you receive your invitation this year, remember that it’s your chance to make Pinellas count. And don’t worry: your personal information is kept safe and strictly confidential. By law, your answers cannot be used against you in any way.

2020 is an important year for making our voices heard. Along with launching a new decade and holding a presidential election, it marks the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment, which banned racial discrimination in voting, and the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. The 2020 Census is another important vehicle, and we need to make sure we do it right.

You can learn more about the census at and email if you have any questions. And as always, if you have questions or comments, you can reach me at (727) 464-3363 or