As citizens, we are currently faced with some of the greatest challenges we have encountered in recent memory. The seriousness and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have surpassed anything any of us could have imagined.
We were already living in very demanding times, overloaded with concerns and responsibilities that pulled us in many directions. COVID-19 has now made this even more severe. To ask everyone for more seems unfair. Yet I must ask. Now, more than any other time in our country’s history, we have a shared civic responsibility to each other and a monumental need for civic engagement. Going forward we must all be accountable for the future. We must all model the right behavior for the good of our communities and so that our children learn from us what it means to be conscious that what we do has implications for everyone else.
I am asking for two important acts of civic engagement that are simple to fulfill. 1) Please take the need for social distancing seriously; and 2) complete the 2020 Census.
Social distancing is a fundamental tactic that will help us defeat the spread of COVID-19. It is clear we were not ready, and it is hard to imagine the magnitude of what we would have needed to do to be ready. Each day though, state and local officials are stepping up and getting closer and closer to managing this threat proactively. Businesses are moving online if they can and there is help for businesses that cannot do so and will need additional help. It seems like we have been under this threat for a very long time, yet it is just a few weeks and our leaders have made important advances to protect the commonwealth.
For the sake of the “common wealth,” I ask you to do your part to ensure the success of what our leaders are doing. Follow the protocols to protect your health. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, frequently. Sneeze into your sleeve. Stay home if you do not feel well. Call your health care provider for advice first, if you are ill.
Social distancing is the best way you can step up and help protect the health of your friends, family, neighbors and, of course, our doctors, nurses, EMTs, firefighters and police. There are certainly times when you must leave your home, and when you do, please do not shake hands. Keep 6 feet between you and anyone you encounter. Limit time spent with others to less than 15 minutes. Be careful of direct contact with surfaces that may be contaminated, as the virus can live on surfaces for anywhere from several hours to several days. Please do your part and adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Census Day is April 1, 2020. You probably received your invitation to respond to the 2020 Census and your Census ID number in the mail. I ask that you complete the Census online immediately at my2020census.gov. Completing the census online will greatly reduce the need for census takers to be out in the community and risk contracting COVID-19.
Census numbers determine the apportionment of representatives in Congress, which also determines the number of Electoral College votes for each state. This is critical to the outcome of future legislation and elections.
These numbers are also used as the basis for the formula for our federal funding allocation. Funding ranging from $2,400 to $3,600 per resident is allocated, based on census numbers. This funding formula remains constant for 10 years, until the 2030 Census. Our allocation goes towards roads, schools, public works projects, hospitals, public safety, services for seniors and veterans, and so much more. Many towns have organized Complete Count Committees to avoid under-counting. Completing the census online yourself and encouraging others to complete the census online is a simple act of civic engagement that amplifies the work of your local Complete Count Committee. It is also an important step to ensure that your voice and the voices around you are heard at both the local and federal level.
My thoughts are with you every day. I promise that I am working diligently on your behalf for a safe and healthy future for all of us.
State Rep. Tram Nguyen represents the people of the 18th Essex District, which includes parts of Andover, North Andover, Boxford and Tewksbury.