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Hawaii News | Kokua Line

Kokua Line: Rapid Census Bureau survey will be used to inform pandemic relief

Question: I received an email with the subject line “Official Request from the U.S. Census Bureau: Household Pulse Survey” and have been unable to confirm if this is truly from the Census Bureau or if it is a scam. I haven’t read of any Census Bureau COVID surveys and wonder if you can investigate and report.

Answer: Yes, the email you received is legitimate; you can tell from the “reply to” address, which is COVID.survey@census.gov. You have been selected to participate in the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, a quick-turnaround questionnaire designed to gauge how households across the country are coping with the novel coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.

“All communications from the Census Bureau regarding the Household Pulse Survey, including all emails and the link to the survey, will originate from a census.gov domain,” the Census Bureau says on its website.

The email you received includes a link to a roughly 20-minute online survey that asks how jobs, finances, access to food, health, housing and schooling of you and those you live with have been affected by the ongoing crisis. The survey also asks about the physical and mental well-being of those in the household.

The data collected across the country will be used to help direct aid and assistance to the people and places that need it most, the Census Bureau says.

Your email address was among the limited number scientifically selected as part of a random sample representing the U.S. population; respondents cannot be “self-selected.” By law your responses are confidential and can’t be released in a way that would identify you.

Data collection began April 23 and continues for 90 days from that point. Once the initial batch of data is analyzed, aggregate results will be released weekly.

The Household Pulse Survey is separate from and does not replace the requirement for you to answer the 2020 census, if you have not already done so.

Q: I received a stimulus check for my mother, who died in 2018. I was told it was because I filed a tax return for her in 2019. I was her caregiver until her final days and was jointly on all her financial accounts. The check is made out to her with a c/o to myself. However, the Treasury Department does know she is deceased since after her name is “DECD.” Was this sent in error? If so, how do I return it?

A: This is happening all over the country, including in Hawaii. Kokua Line alone has received similar queries from nearly a dozen other readers.

You heard right: For people who file federal income tax returns, the stimulus payment is based on their 2018 or 2019 tax return. Payments have gone out to some who died after filing or to those, like your mom, whose survivors filed on their behalf.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told The Wall Street Journal last week that heirs are not supposed to keep this money, that the department is checking its databases for errant payments and that he expects the money to be returned. However, the department hasn’t issued instructions for how to return it, and some tax experts say it will be difficult for the government to retrieve the money.

The IRS is expected to issue guidance soon. Until it does so, it’s probably best to hold tight — don’t spend or donate the money (as several readers said they intend to do), but don’t mail it back just yet.

We’re checking with the IRS daily for updates.

Mahalo

Mahalo to my wonderful neighbor who checks on us seniors up and down the cul-de-sac. She rings the bell and then keeps her distance through the screen door and makes sure we are OK. Just knowing that someone will be stopping by is a blessing. — Grateful senior


Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.


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