2020 Census count nears end, but when?
The response rate for the 2020 Census is low in some areas, but there is still time for faith communities and nonprofits to help increase participation to make sure everyone is counted.
Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Census Bureau earlier this year adjusted the 2020 Census operations timeline. Pending court decisions, the official Census 2020 count may continue through October 31, which means it's not too late for people to respond, said Meg Lindsay, director of education programs at Innovia Foundation in Spokane. Innovia, the community foundation serving Eastern Washington and North Idaho, has been working since last fall on Census outreach efforts to ensure a complete and accurate count of all communities
A complete count is critical, Meg said, because over the next 10 years, census data will be the basis for distributing hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds each year for education, health care, emergency services, housing programs, food assistance and more. A community can lose $30,000 in funding—$3,000/year for 10 years—for each individual who is not counted.
"This election year highlights the importance of apportionment," she said, noting that the Constitution sets population as the basis for political power, not wealth or land. The census is the basis for allocating seats in the House of Representatives."
While the census count is going well in some counties of the region, Meg said, many households have not responded. Spokane County and Kootenai County have self-response rates of more than 70 percent, but some rural counties are below 45 percent. Census takers worked on non-response follow-ups in September.
If Census 2020 continues in October, faith communities can:
• Offer computers for people to complete the census online.
• Urge members during worship to participate in the census.
• Post messages from the 2020 Census Digital Action Guide on reader boards, social media, websites and blogs.
• Announce it in newsletters.
• Use 2020 Census graphics on their social media with the hashtag #2020Census. There are materials saying: "Time is running out. Please respond now at https://2020census.gov/en/partners/outreach-materials.html."
People may respond to the census online, by phone or by mail. Information is confidential and used only to produce statistics.
"When people knock, it's important to answer," said Meg, aware some are hesitant during COVID-19 and elections.
Because churches know their members, they have the trust to make the contacts, she said.
On Sept. 5, a federal judge in California ordered the U.S. administration to temporarily stop winding down in-person counting in a legal challenge to ending the census Sept. 30 instead of Oct. 31, the original time set by the Census Bureau.
On Sept. 24, a federal court ruled the count is to continue. That ruling is being appealed. Meg urges people to watch the news for updates on the Census completion deadline in coming weeks.
For information, visit 2020census.gov.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, October, 2020