Posts on social media make the claim that U.S. citizens must “go to 2020census.gov and fill out this census form so you can get your stimulus check.” ( here ) The claim that filling out the 2020 census form is a prerequisite for receiving direct payments from the federal government in response to the coronavirus outbreak is false.
The U.S. Senate on March 25, 2020 unanimously passed a $2-trillion bill aimed at helping unemployed workers and industries hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as providing billions of dollars to buy urgently needed medical equipment. ( here ), It earmarks about $500 billion in direct payments to Americans in two waves of checks of up to $1,200 for an individual earning up to $75,000 a year. Additional payments for families with children could push the total to $3,000 for a family of four, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin ( here ).
It is true that the 2020 U.S. census count is now underway ( 2020census.gov/ ), with Census Day coming up on April 1 ( here ). Respondents can fill out the form online, by phone, or by mail. The purpose of the census, which aims to count every person living in the U.S. and five U.S. territories, is to provide “critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support” in different communities, according to the Census Bureau ( here ). Census data informs how billions of dollars in federal funding are allocated to hospitals, fire departments, schools, infrastructure and other resources. The census count also determines how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives, and it is used to map congressional and state legislative districts.
The stimulus package in response to the coronavirus pandemic is not related to the federal census. In response to rumors circulating online, the Census Bureau clarified the matter here on its website. Under the heading “Will filling out the 2020 Census impact whether you receive a stimulus check?” the site says, “No. Your answers cannot be used to impact your eligibility for any government benefits, including any potential stimulus package. The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the U.S. Code to keep your information confidential, and the answers you provide are used only to produce statistics.”
The census count will continue through July 2020, and the Census Bureau will not deliver apportionment (the division of the seats in the House of Representatives among the 50 states) counts to the President and Congress until December 2020 ( here ).
Direct payments to families as part of the stimulus package will likely happen sooner. During a March 17 coronavirus task force briefing, Secretary Mnuchin said “Americans need cash now, and the President wants to get cash now. And I mean now, in the next two weeks.” (see 18:42 www.c-span.org/video/?470426-1/president-trump-urges-states-follow-coronavirus-guidelines ). According to NBC, the Treasury Department proposed that “two rounds of direct payments to taxpayers, each totaling $250 billion… be sent on April 6 and on May 18.” ( here )
False: the eligibility of Americans for federal checks amidst the coronavirus outbreak is not subject to completion of the census
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work here .