It's no joke, on April 1 the government will hold the 2020 Census, counting all people who reside in the United States. But for members of the military this somewhat unfamiliar process forces them to yet again ask themselves, "where am I from?"


If you are a new recruit, you may not remember the last census, as it was a full 10 years ago. For the purposes of the census, military members are counted where they are physically stationed, not where you are a resident. And to make matters more confusing, it is UP TO YOU to show up and be counted.

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4 Reasons You Should Care

1: Funding

Hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars from the federal budget are allocated to individual states and communities based on the information collected from the 2020 population survey. This translates to improvements to schools, housing, health care and firefighting and more. To be under-represented is to be under-funded.

2: Representation

Not only will funding be diverted to the most populated areas, this data will determine how many electoral votes and congressional representatives to allocate and will determined how congressional district lines will be drawn. This may sound dull, but accurate numbers make the electoral process less susceptible to manipulation, making the process invaluable.

3: Community Planning

Do you want a new Trader Joe's or Starbucks in your neighborhood? Well, if you live in a heavily populated area, businesses will be looking to this data to select where they place these new business and key services. The government will also look to this info to update infrastructure across the country.

4: Invest in the Future

Even if your family will not to be at your current duty station for much longer, you will have a replacement. Someone will come after you and their presence will be felt in the community. They will need medical services. They will need good schools for their children. Your participation affects them.

How to Be Counted

The US Census Bureau will send out mailers to all homes in mid-March with details. You can respond by phone, mail or online – the first time this option will be offered. If you do not receive instructions by late March you can call (800) 923-8282 or visit the 2020 Census website.

Active Duty (deployed outside the US)

If you are deployed or stationed outside the US you do not need to respond, as the Department of Defense (DoD) will submit existing personnel data on your behalf.

Active Duty (not outside the US or deployed)

If you live on a stateside military base you will be able to participate by working with military officials who will collect your 2020 Census data. If you do not live on a military installation, but are stationed within the 50 US states and Washington, DC. you will need to respond by phone, mail or online.

Veterans

If you live in military-affiliated housing, you will be contacted by a military representative to be counted. If you are not living on a military facility you will need to respond by phone, mail or online.

Military Spouses

If your spouse is deployed internationally you need to respond via phone, mail or online. If you are stationed Outside the Continental United States (OCONUS) with your spouse, you do not need to participate as the DoD will submit this data on your behalf. If your spouse is on a non-deployable tour within the US how your family responds will depend on if you live in military housing.

Not only is participation patriotic, it is a legal requirement. Those who fail to fill it out completely can be fined up to $100, with those falsifying information seeing fines of up to $500. However, participation should be fueled by facts, not by fear. While military families face a more complicated process to be counted, facts are available and only you can #shapeyourfuture.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.