By Pamela W. Baker, CPA, CGFM
Census 2020-Let’s Get Everyone Counted!
Federal Presidential elections happen once every four years and can have impact on policy and funding for communities across the Country. Even more significant, but not as often, is the United States Census, required by the United States Constitution to be conducted every ten years. This is no easy job given the increasing mobility of people in (and out of) our Country. This year the census will move away from paper as the primary way to collect data, for the first time since in began in 1790 – testament to how we have become an automated Nation. It is estimated that the cost for the 2020 Census will approach $16 billion and employ up to half a million people. So – is it worth it and if so, why? Why does the census matter?
Census data is used in ways you may not realize. It is critical to communities. The census results are used to determine the number of seats each state has in Congress, draw boundaries for voting districts, and determine how more than $675 billion in federal funding is spent in communities each year. Census data is used to determine local needs for roads, schools, rural development, veteran’s services, employment, child-care, senior centers, housing, environment, incarceration, healthcare and more. The numbers and demographics calculated in the census determine federal dollars allocated to states from all national programs for ten years (until the next census is done). There is strength in having accurate numbers. The more people counted means more money and power for our local communities. Missing people in the census count is compounded by the historical statistics that the census has missed disproportionate numbers of racial minorities, immigrants, young children and those living in poverty – “hard-to-count populations” – leading to inequality in political power, government funding and private-sector investment for these communities. There is even more. Census determines equal political representation; informs fair allocation of public, private, and nonprofit resources; informs policy debates and decision-making; guides foundation strategies, investments, and evaluations; measures socio-economic conditions. The business community uses census data to consider moving to an area, expanding locations and whether to hire more people. Social Security uses census data to determine what they will need in money to support the aging population and at what age will they consider eligibility. The nonprofit sector uses census data to determine needs, provide services, and measure success. The financial stability of many programs that provide services we all use rely on the resources that are determined by census. Imagine, as an example, that an entire community is overlooked because they are not English speaking and do not understand the census process. As the next ten years pass, those people will have children who enter our public schools who, without accurate data will not be prepared for the increase in population. This is but one example of the price we pay for not completing an accurate census.
One of the biggest fears for disenfranchised people is the fear of being singled out and/or persecuted. By Federal law Protected Personal Information from census cannot be shared with immigration, law enforcement agencies, or used to determine eligibility for programs. Census data is sealed by Federal law for 75 years.
The nonprofit community has a tremendous opportunity for future funding by promoting and encouraging participation in the census. Many nonprofits are in regular contact with those individuals and communities most at risk for not being counted. Each State has resources to engage the community in increasing participation in census 2020. Think of working to increase census numbers as another grant writing opportunity – let’s maximize funding so that we can maximize impact and make a difference for all.
For more information and to become a Census Partner go to https://2020Census.gov
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