By Russ and Tiña De Maris
While it’s still months away, April 1, 2020, will be a significant day across the U.S. Yes, we know, it’s April Fool’s Day, but more significantly, it’s also National Census Day. That once-every-ten-years event is mandated by the Constitution, and there are plenty of folks interested that the “count” goes in their favor.
Why so? The information the census delivers is used to determine how many seats in Congress each state receives. And for a lot of municipalities, it means money. Federal dollars, to the tune of $675 billion, are allocated based on how many people live in a given location. Some of that money goes to things that affect many – including road funds, hospitals and schools.
A news item from Florida shows just how important the matter can be. Under the headline “Snowbirds could complicate the 2020 census for Florida,” a writer for the Villages-News reported on how a local League of Women Voters invited in a speaker to discuss the issue of the census. One of the points made was how snowbirds were counted could have a huge impact on the area. The speaker pointed out that some winter visitors to Florida might actually receive a census form in Florida – and one at their other residence. So what location does a snowbird use as their “residence” for purposes of the census?
In the most recent determination by the Census Bureau, it’s a relatively easy call. Those with “seasonal homes” simply would be counted at the location “where they live and sleep most of the time.” For the Florida situation, the person who spends five months in Florida and the balance of their time “back home” in Maine would count Maine as their residence for purposes of the census.
But for fulltime RVers, the situation isn’t so clear. Plenty of fulltimers move from point to point around the country, having no place where they specifically “live and sleep most of the time.” Back in 2010, before the census, posters went up around Quartzsite, Arizona, begging fulltimers to list Quartzsite as their residence, presumably to steer more money to the desert town, and perhaps to add to the political clout of the Grand Canyon State. But is that the legal approach?
The Census Bureau, in its most recent iteration of its “2020 Census Residence Criteria and Residence Situations” (released February 8, 2018), makes the call this way. “If they have no usual residence, they’re counted at their location on Census Day.” That’s definitely tough for Quartzsite – if 2020 is like any other year in town, the “Snowbird Capital of the Southwest” will look like a ghost town. Most fulltimers will have beat feet for cooler climes.
What’s your residence for the census? Snowbirds, it’s where you lay yourself down to rest the majority of the year. Fulltimers, it’s pretty much where you are, come April Fool’s Day, or National Census Day, whichever way you care to look at it.