WILKES-BARRE — After news emerged last week that documents misleadingly labeled as official Census forms are being mailed to Pennsylvanians, Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin reminded Pennsylvania residents to be cognizant and aware of potential 2020 Census scams and confusion.
“An accurate Census is a fair Census and using the 2020 Census as a way to confuse and scam residents of the commonwealth is unacceptable,” Davin said. “The real Census questionnaire is short and clear, so we encourage any Pennsylvania resident who receives a questionable document in the mail to contact their local Census hub, which is the most reliable resource for clarification, with any doubts, questions, or concerns.”
The United States Constitution requires a Census count once every 10 years and counts every person living in the United States once and only once. The results of the 2020 Census will help provide fair representation when determining congressional districts, policy, decision-making, and distribution of billions of dollars in federal funding that impacts the daily lives of Pennsylvanians over the next 10 years.
Pennsylvanians can respond to the 2020 Census by mail or online. Census Day is April 1, and as that day gets closer, the possibility of scams is increasing. Since the 2020 Census will be collecting basic information about the people living in your household, there are a few things you should remember to avoid falling victim to a scam.
Do not respond if you are asked for your social security number, bank or credit card information, your mother’s maiden name, money or donations, or anything on behalf of a political party. The U.S. Census Bureau will never ask for this information. If someone claiming to be from the U.S. Census Bureau contacts you via email, phone, or in-person and asks for any of this information, it is a scam.
Below are helpful tips to protect Pennsylvanians during the 2020 Census collection period:
• If you receive a survey or letter in the mail, check that the return address is from Jeffersonville, Indiana.
• If you receive a phone call, you can call the U.S. Census Bureau at 1-800-923-8282 to verify whether the caller is an employee.
• If you receive an email or are sent a URL to respond to the census, make sure the website address begins with “HTTPS” and includes a lock symbol. If you receive a suspicious email or URL, do not reply, click links, or open attachments. Forward the email to the U.S. Census Bureau at [email protected] and then delete it. The U.S. Census Bureau will investigate and report their findings to you.
• If you’re visited by a census worker, ask to see their identification. They should have an official identification badge with their photo, U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. If you have questions about their identity, you can call 1-800-923-8282 to speak to a local U.S. Census Bureau representative.
• If you hear questionable information about the 2020 Census or are wondering whether a rumor may be true, please contact [email protected] or visit the U.S. Census Bureau website.
For more information on the U.S. Census, visit pa.gov/census, and be sure to stay up-to-date with all of our agency news on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Webpages educate voters
on county voting systems
Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar announced this week that Pennsylvania voters have a new resource to count on as they prepare to go to the polls.
The Department of State has launched 67 new webpages — one for each county — where voters can learn specifics about their county’s voting system and how to use it.
“We want to make sure all voters go to the polls feeling confident and equipped with the information they need to cast their ballots on their new voter-verifiable paper ballot voting systems,” Boockvar said. “These customized websites will help ensure that all voters understand how to use the new auditable voting systems in use in their counties and give all Pennsylvania voters a clear understanding of the voting tools and options available to them.”
Each webpage includes a description of the county’s voting system along with photos and videos that guide voters through a step-by-step process of how to use the system. The webpages also include accessibility information for voters with disabilities and contact information for county election offices if voters have additional questions.
The county webpages are part of the Department of State’s Ready to Vote 2020 initiative, which aims to educate voters about new voting systems and other voting changes ahead of the 2020 elections. Among the resources available through Ready to Vote is a toolkit that groups and organizations can use to share reliable information about voting in Pennsylvania. The department’s votesPA.com website and the toolkit explain the significant voting reforms in Act 77, including the new option to vote by mail-in ballot.
“There are many exciting changes coming to voting in Pennsylvania this year,” Boockvar said. “The Department of State looks forward to continued strong partnerships with county officials as we work together to make voting easier, more accessible, and more secure for millions of Pennsylvanians.”
For more information on voting in Pennsylvania, visit the Department of State’s website www.votespa.com.
State launches new campus
voting challenge for students
Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar also unveiled this week the Pennsylvania Campus Voting Challenge — a statewide, nonpartisan voter turnout competition for colleges designed to increase civic engagement among students.
“Our democracy’s future depends on cultivating informed and engaged citizens,” Secretary Boockvar said. “This challenge assists Pennsylvania colleges in their efforts to develop the next generation of civic leaders and encourages young Pennsylvanians to participate fully in our democracy.”
Two- and four-year colleges and universities that enroll in the challenge will compete in three award categories: highest voter turnout, most improved voter turnout and highest rate of voter registration for the November 2020 general election.
Winners will be determined by data from the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE) at the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
Participating schools commit to convening a campus-wide committee to develop and implement an action plan for advancing non-partisan civic engagement and increased voter registration among students.
2020 Benefits and Rights book
for older residents now available
Pennsylvania Department of Aging Secretary Robert Torres this week announced the release of the 2020 Benefits and Rights for Older Pennsylvanians — the commonwealth’s premier guide for information and resources serving older adults on the state and local levels.
“Many older Pennsylvanians are unaware of what’s available to them as they continue to age in their community and their home. This book is a one-stop shop for them to learn about the multitude of services right at their fingertips,” Torres said. “The Department of Aging is proud to offer this free guide to all older Pennsylvanians as a way to assist them in living happy, healthy lives.”
Some of the topics included in the book are housing, insurance, legal services, long-term care ombudsman program, and protective services.
Individuals can obtain the 2020 Benefits and Rights book at their county Area Agency on Aging and the office of their state senator and representative. The book can also be viewed and downloaded online here.
State distributes naloxone
to 7 Pennsylvania airports
The Wolf Administration on Thursday announced that it will provide free naloxone to Pennsylvania airports as part of an ongoing effort to expand access to the life-saving medication and decrease opioid overdoses across the commonwealth.
The naloxone will be stored with airport AED machines and first aid kits with the suggestion that all airport personnel are trained to both carry and administer the medication. Many airports already have their own public safety teams with police, fire and EMS, so this distribution will be available to those teams if needed as well.
The airports involved in the program are: Harrisburg International Airport; Philadelphia International Airport, Pittsburgh International Airport, Williamsport Regional Airport, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, University Park Airport and Lancaster Airport.
Data show that in 2018, more than 4,400 people died from a drug overdose. This represents a nearly 18% decrease in drug overdose deaths from 2017.
The Wolf Administration has increased federal funding for the distribution of naloxone to $5.4 million and expanded access to naloxone through a number of initiatives. Naloxone is carried at most pharmacies across the state year-round.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.